T-shirts tell stories of domestic abuse
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 02:10
Miami University is stringing together messages of hope and remembrance along a clothesline this month to support victims of domestic violence. Through this project, called the Clothesline Project, Miami’s Women’s Center is bringing courageous memories and stories of survival to the attention of the university’s community.
In this project, those who identify as women create T-shirts that depict personal stories of domestic violence. Through these personal stories, the women have not only brought awareness to campus, but have also given other women an outlet to express their thoughts and feelings.
“The Clothesline Project is a powerful awareness initiative sponsored annually by the Women’s Center,” Sexual Assault and Response Coordinator Rebecca Getson said. “It brings focus and attention to the devastating effects of gendered violence and the strength of survivors and friends or family members of victims and survivor.”
Rhonda Jackson, administrative assistant of the Women’s Center, explained the project is recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. The shirts are personal statements made by women who are survivors or women who knew a victim. The center gave supplies to these women in order to make the shirts.
“We give the women an opportunity to make the shirts in private because the experience can be very intense and emotional for the women,” Jackson said. “T-shirts can be ripped, torn or cut up by the women in order to express their feelings. The shirt can be simple or complex so each T-shirt is a true work of art.”
In 1990, a group of Mass. women started the Clothesline Project to commemorate the 51,000 women who died that summer as a result of domestic violence.
The project came to Miami in 1998 after MU students saw the event at the University of Dayton the previous year. According to Jackson, the national goal of the project is to give a voice to women of domestic violence and to spread awareness for the project.
Senior Carleigh LaFrance, a student ambassador for the Women’s Center, explained that the color of each shirt has a specific meaning that corresponds to different types of domestic violence.
According to Jackson, students are typically surprised by the number of T-shirts hanging in The Hub. About 10 to 15 shirts are made each year, which means 200 MU women have been involved with the Clothesline project over the past 15 years by making personal shirts.
“It was eye-opening to see how many shirts there were and to think that there are probably many others who didn’t make a shirt for the project,” first-year Catherine Brown said.
One aspect of the Clothesline Project and Women’s Center is to give help and resources to not only women, but also those within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) community. According to Jackson, since there is not a specific center for the LGBTQ community, the Women’s Center works within this community to try to spread awareness, acceptance and equality throughout campus.
Even though the Women’s Center focuses mostly on women’s issues, giving resources, advice and support to women, the center focuses on gender roles on campus as well. The center is also open to men.
“Our center isn’t just [open] to women. We want help and support from our male-counter parts as well,” Jackson said. “Overall, our main goal is to help every type of student. The Clothesline Project is a very powerful event that not only helps students, but also spreads the awareness of domestic violence around the nation.”