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Clothesline Project raises awareness of sexual assault

By Elizabeth Hansen, For The Miami Student

Newspapers cover the tables of the Women's Center in preparation for T-shirt painting for the annual Clothesline Project taking place at the Hub next week.

The Clothesline Project is a national program that was founded in Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1990 to help spread awareness about violence against women. Victims decorate shirts with their stories, and then hang them up on clotheslines in public areas to raise awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence against women.

"It's a display, an art installation. But it is made up of what you would think it would be - a clothesline - with T-shirts that have been decorated by people who have experienced, directly or indirectly, sexual violence or other forms of interpersonal violence," said Jane Goettsch, the director of the Women's Center.

Each T-shirt is made to tell a story, and each color represents a different type of violence.

White represents women who have died because of violence; yellow is for battered or assaulted women; red, pink and orange t-shirts for survivors of rape and sexual assault; blue and green symbolize survivors of incest and sexual abuse; purple represents women attacked because of their sexual orientation and black T-shirts signify women attacked for political reasons.

The Clothesline Project uses the simplest form of clothing to make a powerful statement.

"Everyone wears T-shirts and logos on T-shirts as a way of saying things that we wouldn't come right out and say. The Clothesline Project is a way to empower people who may not have felt empowered to share their experience. Also, because we don't ask people to wear their T-shirts, it's a safe way to express the trauma that they've experienced," Goettsch said.

Situated at the Hub in the center of campus, the Clothesline Project can be seen from far away.

"We are always having talks and movie screenings, but it tends to be the same people showing up who are already passionate about the topic. The exhibit allows people to walk through on their own time and interpret it however they want. It's more independent, reaches more people and it is more out of the ordinary," said Anna Lucia Feldmann, an intern in the Women's Center.

The Women's Center has made it very clear that the Clothesline Project is inclusive to all women, including trans-women and trans-feminine women. The university also recognizes the event as confidential so people who make a T-shirt do not have to worry that their experience will be reported.

"All of the T-shirts we have are made by Miami students, and we try to highlight the shirts that are the newest that year. We ask that they do not be identifying information, but the brief stories are still very impactful," Goettsch said.

New this year is a closing ceremony that will take place at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 2, just before the T-shirts are taken down. The ceremony will pay homage to the people who have been victims of violence no matter how they identify.

"We felt like we work really hard on the project, and then we do the project and then we just sort of take it down and it's done," said Rhonda Jackson, administrative assistant in the Women's Center. "Because sexual assault and violence are such silencing processes, it will give people the opportunity to read a poem or say 'I'm here speaking out against violence for my mother."

Feldmann believes the Clothesline Project is important because it allows survivors to share their stories in their own words. She also said it is really important for others to come see who might not take the "It's On Us" campaign seriously, or think about consent seriously.

"It shows that stuff like this really does happen on this campus," she said.

All students are encouraged to come to the event next week, and T-shirts will continue to be made from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. until Oct. 2 in the Women's Center (127 McGuffey Hall).