T-shirts and socks hung high on a clothesline at Seven Palms from Oct. 14 through 18 for the Clothesline Project, a week-long event where students and faculty showed their support for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
The event was sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center and supported by the University Counseling Center, Campus Pastors Office and Office of Residence Life.
The Clothesline Project is designed to give a voice to men and women who have experienced the horrors of domestic violence. Survivors were encouraged to write their thoughts and experiences on a T-shirt. Other students showed support by writing encouragement on socks and hanging them as a symbolic commitment to pray for the victims and survivors in the community.
The Clothesline Project was established in 1990 in Cape Cod, Mass., when the Women’s Defense Agenda learned that 58,000 soldiers were killed during the Vietnam War, and during that time 51,000 women in the U.S. were killed by men who claimed to love them. Because women traditionally hung their clothes out to dry on a clothesline, allowing themselves time to talk with each other, the organization used the drying aid as the visual representation for their cause.
“[The clothesline] is symbolic in telling their story as a survivor,” said Kaley Lindquist, the 2nd year grad student and assistant of the WRC.
The T-shirts displayed various stories of fear, hurt, redemption and strength.
“What the shirt represents is giving a voice to the voiceless,” Lindquist said. “That is the purpose of the project — to give a voice to these stories that are so often unheard.”
The Clothesline Project was available for visitors throughout the whole week, with WRC staff, along with campus pastors and UCC staff available for support and information from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. Thursday at 1 p.m., WRC staff held a communal prayer meeting with students and faculty to pray for survivors.
One survivor of sexual assault said the event is particularly helpful on a college campus because it has the potential to “open people’s eyes to what is going on around them.”
“[Abuse] is not this whole other, scary, dark world,” said the sophomore sociology major, who wished to remain anonymous. “It’s something that’s here and is present and is in every sort of life. It can affect anybody.”
WRC graduate assistant Christal Stanley said some people who have never been affected by domestic violence do not realize how much of a problem it really is.
“I [kept] hearing the word ‘powerful’ after they read the T-shirts and the stories,” Stanley said.
Not only does the Clothesline Project provide awareness to those who are uninformed of the severity of this problem, it allows APU to step up as a community-centered student body to create unity for these survivors.
“I know there abuse survivors out there who are hurting, and it makes me want to know who they are so I can reach out to them,” the anonymous sophomore sociology major said. “Even though it’s different situations and different people, it’s something that we should be reaching out to as a community and as a student body.”
After letting the story out on a T-shirt, the next step is healing. The mission of the WRC and other supporting departments is to be available to hear the stories of those who didn’t put up shirts or feel like they have an ongoing story worth telling. The Clothesline Project was simply a steppingstone to providing a safe place for students to find healing.
“My role … is to be available in case there are women who would like to form a sexual assault survivor group,” said Dr. Elaine Walton, WRC director and a UCC psychologist. “[I want] to hear what [students] really want and then try and meet that need with the resources that we have.”
The WRC highly encourages any student, male or female, who has been affected by the devastation of sexual assault and domestic violence to come into its office, or the UCC or Campus Pastors’ offices.
“We love having our male students in our office, and we would encourage even more men to come,” Lindquist said. “These issues are not just women’s issues.”