Clothesline Project Brings Awareness to Victims of Abuse

PEERS members Emily Macaluso, Kevin Fanning, and Eddie O’Brien table for the Clothesline Project. Courtesy of Jacqueline Jedrych

By Jacqueline Jedrych

Victims of violence and their supporters are hanging up t-shirts throughout the PRYZ patio to bring attention to the problem and highlight support across campus as part of a PEERS organization initiative. The Clothesline Project is a national organization that strives to bring attention to this incredibly pervasive problem. Since 2014, PEERS at Catholic University has spread awareness through participation in the project.   

“The Clothesline Project brings awareness to the issue of violence against women, men, and children,” said sophomore Politics major and event organizer Reagan Lehman. “For those who have been affected by violence, are survivors themselves, or just want to show support, the Clothesline Project is a safe place where they can do that.”

Those affected by violence and their supporters are invited to choose a color and writing a message of support or their story on one of the six t-shirts to hang on a clothesline in the Pryz Patio. The colors of the shirts represent different types of abuse— red and orange represent rape and sexual assault, yellow represents domestic violence, green represents childhood sexual abuse, and blue represents emotional abuse. 

The shirts now read supportive sentiments such as, “We believe you. This does NOT define you. You are loved.” 

The project’s ultimate goal is to educate people. According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, nearly 24 people per minute in the US are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. 

“We really want to educate our community on the various forms of violence and provide evidence that issues like domestic violence, sexual assault, and emotional abuse do exist,” says Lehman. “My hope is to also give a voice to those who have been silenced. I want to empower students to share their stories and I want them to feel supported. Information leads to action, so we hope that through this project students will find their voice and stay silent no more.”

The message of awareness and support is just part of a larger global initiative. It unites survivors and supporters from across the world to show that the issue of dating violence is expansive. 

According to The Clothesline Project website, the movement originated in Hyannis, Massachusetts in 1990. Members of Cape Cod’s Women’s Defense Agenda saw a problem when they learned that during the same amount of time that 58,000 soldiers were killed in the Vietnam War, 51,000 U.S. women were killed by men who claimed to love them. 

Catholic University’s peer education group- Peer Educators Empowering Respectful Students- informs students about alcohol and other drug use and abuse, mental health awareness, sexual assault and violence education, healthy relationships, and bystander intervention. 

“PEERS, through the support of the Office of the Dean of Students, engages with students to create a safe and open dialogue about how we can raise awareness for these issues and shift the culture on our campus,” according to their website.

These t-shirts provide testimony to the stories of sexual, emotional, domestic, and dating violence that many people have experienced. One survivor account on the Clothesline Project website recounts how making the shirt was a therapeutic experience that helped her reflect on her the origin of toxic thoughts put in her mind and made her gain confidence. 

“And all of a sudden,” the story recounts, “when I have that little bit of self-doubt I remember ‘that is not my thought. I know that I am strong and I know that I am capable.’ And I go and conquer.”

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