The Clothesline Project: giving a voice to survivors of abuse
Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 02:03
On March 5, UNH’s Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program hosted the Clothesline Project in the Memorial Union Building. The Clothesline Project is a national initiative started by a group of women in the 1990s that aims to give survivors and their friends and family members a voice about their abuse.
“It’s a visual representation of the abuse that’s happening. It’s easy to talk in the abstract, so having a visual representation helps spreads awareness,” said SHARPP Direct Services Coordinator Amy Culp.
The idea of the clothesline was inspired by women years ago who handled laundry. Going outside to hang up clothes on the clothesline became a social gathering. Women in neighboring yards used this time and space to talk with one another about their lives. Sometimes, it was the only space where women could disclose things that were happening to them and to other women.
The Clothesline Project encourages survivors, families, and friends to design a T-shirt in any way they choose. Some survivors tell their stories on the shirt. Others use pictures and symbols attached to their abuse or their healing. Some offer encouragement and hope to other victims.
“Anger quotes are the strongest. Women often don’t allow themselves to feel anger and it is not allowed in society to express anger,” Culp said. She refrained from directly quoting these T-shirts on account of the curse words used to describe these powerful though disturbing messages.
In New Hampshire, the Clothesline Project is an annual statewide event put on by the AmeriCorps Victim Assistance Program. The project displays shirts from crisis centers across the state on the State House lawn in Concord every April.
Following the State House display, the shirts are moved to Colby-Sawyer College where all shirts from prior years are displayed. The shirts number into the thousands.
Twice a year, SHARPP hosts the Traveling Clothesline Project. During the month of October (Domestic Violence/Relationship Abuse Awareness Month) and April (Sexual Assault Awareness Month), the clothesline is brought to different halls across campus for display. T-shirts displayed at UNH have been made by students, faculty and staff members since 2002.
SHARPP will hold the annual anti-violence rally on the Great Lawn on Thursday, April 11 at 12:30 p.m. The event will feature information tables, displayed Clothesline T-shirts, a 20-minute walk around campus reading UNH’s Community Proclamation Against Violence, and a student call to action to end violence at UNH.