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"The Clothesline Project" provides outlet for survivors

by Kari Ashworth - Copy Editor
Tue, Apr 23rd 2019 10:00 pm
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The Student Social Work Organization (SSWO) and Brockport Student Government (BSG) held its annual event “The Clothesline Project” in the Seymour College Union Ballroom on April 16 and 17. “The Clothesline Project” is a national event that aims to bring awareness to sexual violence in the United States.

Walking into the ballroom, students could hear a variety of sounds that represented different statistics on violence against women. A gong sounded every nine to 10 seconds, symbolizing a woman being battered. The whistle heard by attendees every one to two minutes indicated someone being raped, and the ringing bell heard every 15 minutes indicated how often a woman is murdered in the United States.

Over 100 T-shirts lined the ballroom, each with a unique message to one’s abuser or in support of a survivor. Each color T-shirt had a different meaning as well. A white T-shirt was in remembrance of someone who had died as a result of violent acts, yellow T-shirts symbolized survivors of domestic or physical violence and red supported survivors of sexual assault. 

Moreover, pink and orange T-shirts symbolized survivors of rape and sexual assault, blue and green T-shirts were in support of survivors of incest or childhood sexual abuse and purple represented individuals who were attacked due to their perceived sexual orientation. Black stood for individuals who became disabled as a result of an attack, gray was a sign of a survivor of verbal and/or emotional abuse and brown symbolized survivors of spiritual abuse. 

After walking the room, students were given the opportunity to create their own design.

“We allow for people to come in and to express their emotions,” Project Manager Malaika Knight said. “They paint or decorate T-shirts. So essentially they’re using this form of art to express their emotions.”

Knight also noted this was a very emotional event. People were visibly upset after walking out of the ballroom. 

“They’re not made up stories,” Knight said. “These are things that actually happened to many of the young women on the staff, that’s on our campus, that needs to be addressed in some [way]. The only way they have to express themselves or get those emotions to the surface is to do a T-shirt. Some of them that I have noticed that were making T-shirts actually got really emotional.”

This event is all inclusive to any sexual violence survivor, despite “The Clothesline Project” primarily being targeted toward women. 

“‘The Clothesline Project’ is focused so much on women, but it’s for anyone [who has experienced] any type of sexual assault or domestic violence,” Knight said. 

According to Assistant Project Manager Wanda Jackson, between 3,000 and 4,000 T-shirts have been made by the Brockport community. Those made most recently hung in the ballroom this past week. 

Counselors were available in the ballroom for anyone who may have been triggered by the exhibit, and contact information for Title IX and Hazen Hall were available as well.

For three Brockport students, the event was eye-opening. Joyce Deng originally only attended because her friend wanted extra credit for a class, but all three were glad they did. 

“I’ve been in [the ballroom] so many times and have never felt this way,” Deng said. “You kind of hear the stories in the air; it’s just this feeling that they’re here, they’re telling their stories. It’s interesting.”

Knight and Jackson organized “The Clothesline Project” this year as part of their independent study, but both would enjoy staying connected to the project and continuing to help out with the program. Jackson wanted everyone to know the importance of this issue, which is one that should be highlighted throughout the entire year.

“It shouldn’t just be one event at the end of academic year,” Jackson explained. “It should be an event at the beginning, the middle and end because I truly believe people need reminders.”

Knight and Jackson both agreed that with any issue discussed by women, other people must show support.

“You need men to back it and to say this is wrong to other men,” Jackson said. “You need parents to start telling their sons ‘this is wrong.’ We need conversations to start happening about consent, to say what consent looks like and what consent sounds like.” 

Jackson also believes this event should not only be marketed toward those in the social work department. 

“I really think this shouldn’t just be geared towards social workers and social work majors,” Jackson said. “I think all professors should try to get their students to the event because now it’s basically social workers, [women’s and gender] professors and social work professors that are bringing their students. But I think it goes across the board because I don’t think someone who [has experienced this] is only in social work.”

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, you can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or you can chat with them online. On Campus resources are also avaliable. College Advocate and Education Specialist Nicole Posluszny works with Rstore and can be reached at nicole.posluszny@ppcwny.org.

 

kashw2@brockport.edu | @kariashworth

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