Clothesline project gives voice to the abused

By Shelby Shepherd

For five hours on Oct. 2, the Beehive in Ambrose Hall will help make the voices heard of those
who have been hurt by an issue that has been widely talked about across the country in the past few weeks: domestic violence and sexual assault.

The Clothesline Project will be displayed along the stairs in the Beehive from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The project displays t-shirts made by people who have been affected by domestic violence or sexual assault.
It has been put on by women’s studies and Triota, with help from the SAU Counseling Center and the Sexual Assault Awareness Team, for the past eight years. Katy Strzepek, director of Women and Gender studies, says that it is important to have this event every year.

“I think it’s really important to raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault because a lot of people think it doesn’t happen here on campus; that it’s something that only happens other places. So it helps break the silence about the issue, and it helps people realize they are not alone if it’s happened to them,” Strzepek said.

Not only does this event help raise awareness, but it also allows survivors to be empowered by creating their own shirt. The shirts can be a form of stress reliever for those who are affected by the issue. Some shirts explain survivor’s stories, while others explain how violence affects everyone. Whatever the case may be, the Clothesline project at SAU is always helping people to heal.

“It gives people the opportunity to ask for help, and it gives survivors who are ready to tell their story a chance to do it in a way that’s really powerful. Whenever we put up the project, I always have people call my office wanting a referral or wanting to tell their story, so I think it’s really powerful,” Strzepek said. “Not everyone who is a survivor wants to make a shirt, but sometimes people want to get help, so that’s a good thing, too.”

The project is two-fold. It helps survivors, but it also educates those who are not as up-to-date on sexual and domestic violence and how many people are dealing with these kinds of issues. Strzepek says that even if people are only taking a glance at the shirt, they can still get something out of the project.

“I think even if people glance they are impacted by it,” Strzepek said. “Maybe they are not ready to look at it at that moment, but at least they know this is a project that St. Ambrose cares about. This is something our community is concerned with, and so maybe if they think about the issue again they’ll know what to do and who to ask for help.”

The Clothesline Project is never left unattended. Counselors from SafePath, a local center that provides services for women, children and families affected by sexual and domestic violence, and student advocates will be sitting at a table handing out resources and information that people can use if they or someone they know is ever affected by sexual or domestic violence. The counselors and advocates will also be available to speak with anyone who may want to talk after seeing the project.

The Clothesline Project is being displayed to help kick off Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Anyone who is unable to attend the project, but wants more information about the issue will be able to get it throughout the month.

The women’s studies learning community will be passing out information in the Cosgrove cafeteria and the Rogalski Center throughout the month of October. The Clothesline Project itself will also be on display again Oct. 21 at the Ambrose Women for Social Justice Conference and sometime in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

*Originally published Oct. 2,2014, “The Buzz.”

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