Sun. Jan 23rd, 2022

The Women?s Center sponsored the Clothesline Project in front of Sykes and Main Hall Wednesday and Thursday to raise awareness about domestic violence, rape and sexual assault by displaying T-shirts with messages of survival and strength.The Clothesline Project began in 1990 and was launched by a core group of women living in Cape Cod, Mass., who experienced some form of personal violence. The project formed as a way to give a voice to women who were victims of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault.

“The idea of using a clothesline was a natural,” says the project ?s Web site, Clotheslineproject.org. “Doing the laundry was always considered a woman?s work and in the days of close-knit neighborhoods, women often exchanged information over backyard fences while hanging their clothes out to dry.”

Wednesday morning and afternoon, the T-shirts were hung outside and inside of Sykes on the railing of the main staircase. Thursday morning and afternoon, T-shirts were displayed outside of Main Hall in the Academic Quad.

The T-shirts? various colors symbolize different forms of violence. The white Tshirts honor women who died from violence. Yellow Tshirts symbolize women that were battered or assaulted, while the red, pink and orange T-shirts were for survivors of rape or sexual assault.

Black T-shirts were for the women attacked for political reasons. The purple T-shirts represent women attacked because of their sexuality, and the blue and green T-shirts were for survivors of incest and sexual abuse.

Community members, faculty, staff and students created the words and messages on the shirts. The T-shirts hung on the clothesline to support survivors and victims of rape, violence, abuse and to remind people that rape, domestic violence and sexual assault are serious problems. “No matter how many more years it takes to find myself, I will and then help others to find themselves,” one of the blue T-shirts said.

Other T-shirts inspired people to stand against sexual abuse and violence. “No condom, no consent, no respect,” one of the orange Tshirts said.

Students chose to volunteer at the event for various reasons. “I think it?s important that we display something that?s in your face,” said junior Katie Tanner, who is involved with the Women?s Center and has helped with the Clothesline Project for three years. “In the community I grew up in, men thought they had the right to push their wives and daughters, but they don?t have the right,” said Tanner.

“Someone has to do this to raise awareness,” said Women?s Center member Akemi Nishida. “I hope it?s going to help support survivors of sexual assault.” Sexual assault and rape impact several of the students that crafted their own statements on T-shirts during the two-day event, like senior Leacy Brown. “These shirts are important because it shows you can survive things that are horrible,” she said.

The T-shirt that Brown displayed Wednesday morning in Sykes declared that she survived sexual assault. “I am a survivor and you can be too… Stop the violence! It is not your fault, and it?s not too late,” her shirt read.

Meredith Heavens, a junior, hung a T-shirt to support her cousin and best friend who were both victims of sexual assault. “The power of the rapist depends above all on the silence of the victim,” her T-shirt said.

Students who stopped by the event also had strong reactions to the shirts. “I think it?s inspiring for the victims and the victims? families,” said sophomore Nafessa Williams, who attended the event for a criminal justice class.

However, volunteers of the project have received rude comments in the past concerning the shirts and the movement. Last year, when Tanner worked on the Clothesline Project in the Academic Quad, she received criticism from a male student after she handed him a pamphlet about violence towards women.

“One man said, ?I don?t care, women deserve this,?” Tanner said. “It was hurtful for him to say that.” However, the Clothesline Project has occurred yearly at West Chester University since 1998. Robin Garrett, head of the Women?s Center, described feedback that the project has received as “very positive on campus and the community.”

Years after the Clothesline Project first displayed 31 shirts against domestic violence in Hyannis, Mass., the movement has grown nationally. Today, there are projects in 41 states and five countries, according to clotheslineproject.org.

The Clothesline Project on campus preceded Take Back the Night, a vigil and rally that also raises awareness about rape, domestic violence and sexual abuse. Take Back the Night happened Thursday night.

For more information about the Clothesline Project, clotheslineproject.org offers history and information about the movement. Survivors of sexual abuse, rape, and domestic violence seeking help and support can stop by the Women?s Center on the second floor of Lawrence Hall anytime.

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