Women’s studies presents ‘The Clothesline Project’

The t-shirts that have been clothes-pinned in the Rogalski Center staircase represent a problem that has conflicted many. Family Resources, with the help of some students in the women’s studies department, helped bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence. Through the Clothesline Project a serious issue in society is represented in a visual way.

The Family Resources organization is no stranger when it comes to the issue of domestic violence. Family Resources deals with the issue constantly and tries to create awareness through events like the Clothesline Project, which is something Megan Wilson, outreach advocate for the Rape/Sexual Assault Counseling Program at Family Resources says the organization does many times throughout the year.

The Clothesline Project, which was done last semester at St. Ambrose, again showcased the shirts of victims and witnesses of domestic violence. The project is full of history and has continued to spread awareness about a little-talked-about topic. Clothesline Project is called so for a very simple reason.

“It dates back to the early 1900s when women would communicate over fences in their backyards,” Wilson said. “It’s kind of a way of airing everybody’s dirty laundry so to speak.”

Each of the shirts in fact represents a clothesline, where they are hung out for the entire world to see. The colorful displays of shirts were each placed on a rope by a clothespin next to one another. They represent a sense of community in the subject of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“Seeing these shirts is a really visual way to break the silence and to give voice to women and men who have been silenced for so long,” Katy Strzepek, director of women’s studies, said.

While all of the shirts on display represent the stop against domestic violence, each one contains something different on it. Made by survivors and advocates for raising awareness on this particularly difficult subject, the shirts have a great dealing of meaning for Strzepek.

“Every single time I teach this class I always have survivors in my class,” Strzepek said. “I always hope that maybe things will change and I won’t have survivors in my class but I guess the thing that kind of keeps me going is knowing that this project gives the students courage to maybe say things they never have said before and to realize it wasn’t their fault.”

With such a difficult topic to raise awareness on, it’s important to let the world know about the issue. One important place to start is at colleges in particular, as that is a big concern that campuses are faced with. The Clothesline Project illustrates this problem on campuses to show just how serious of an issue it is in the college setting.

“College women are at an increased risk for experiencing sexual assault,” Wilson said. “One in four college women experience sexual assault or domestic violence and it affects probably someone you know.

Helping spread the message against domestic violence and sexual assault is something that anyone can take an initiative with.

“The community can start lobbying for laws to be changed and really everyone everyday can just very simply combat things they hear that are victimly mean or just not true and it’s a small step that you can take,” Wilson said.

As April celebrates Sexual Assault Awareness Month the Clothesline Project visually showcased a problem that continues to be advocated for on campus.


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