By Rose Sebastian
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, at least twenty people per minute are abused by their significant other. In the span of one year, it would equate to ten million abused women and men. In order to address this issue, a small group of women, whom had experienced personal violence, from Cape Cod, Massachusetts created the Clothesline Project in 1990. The Clothesline Project encourages women to create a shirt that expresses their story of violence and hang it on a clothesline. Each color shirt carries a meaning that represents rape survivors, LGBT women who have been attacked, assaulted women, sexual abuse survivors and any other person who has experienced some type of abuse—physical, emotional, financial, etc.. This simple act has given hundreds of women and their loved ones the opportunity to voice a suppressed experience that has dramatically altered the course of their lives.
The Clothesline Project has gained popularity among college campuses where sexual assault is an underlying and silenced problem. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women are sexually assaulted on campus, but only 10% of cases are reported. On April 10, 2013, California Institute of Technology hosted a Clothesline Project event during Sexual Assault Awareness month to encourage students to write supportive messages and share their experiences to break the silence about sexual assault on campus. Similarly, in 2014, Notre Dame of Maryland University hosted a Clothesline Project, under the direction of Dr. Susan Barber, to aid women in the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women. Students from the women’s studies and criminology departments worked directly with the women to create t-shirts for the event. It allowed several students to develop a connection to these women and gave these women the opportunity to express their stories. It created a sense of unity between the women in MCIW and women on NDMU’s campus.
Prutha Patel, a freshman Biology major, has expressed interest in the Clothesline Project and believes that the Clothesline Project introduces a novel way to speak about sexual violence without the monotony of endless statistics. “I feel as though in our society today when we add a statistic to a number we devalue the experience. The Clothesline Project allows people to physically see the effect of the sexual violence on individualized cases and it urges them to act,” she explains. The Clothesline Project adds the humanistic dimension that is completely devoid of within statistics. Statistics cannot provide a sense of empowerment and closure in the same way that the Clothesline Project can. Watch out for the Clothesline Project 2017, coming to Notre Dame of Maryland in early April.