The Clothesline Project raises awareness about violence in Utah County

Students have a chance to see the stories of survivors and victims describing the pain and hope from their experience with violence. Lyndi Boone/UVU Review

The vibrantly colored shirts hung around the Grande Ballroom. At first glance one might think the brightness insinuated a celebration was going on, but the absence of playful banter in the room confirmed the gravity of the words written on each shirt.

“Love is all I gave U… in return U gave me: heartache, pain, 2 black eyes,” was written on one black shirt.

Each spring and fall, the university puts on the Clothesline Project to bring awareness to the school and community about violence.

Victims, survivors and family members of those who have been involved in domestic violence, sexual abuse and even murder have the opportunity to tell their story, share their feelings or simply speak their peace on colored T-shirts. The different colors signify different kinds of violence. For example, black signifies someone who was disabled as the result of an attack or assaulted because of a disability.

“It’s a good vehicle for making people aware,” said Peggy Pasin, coordinator for the Women’s Resource Center.

Pasin also said that people often believe that being in “Happy Valley,” there are no problems like rape, sexual assault, molestation or even murder.

“We have to deal with reality and not put our heads in the sand,” Pasin said.  According to Jennie Briggs, director of Equity in Education, who was in charge of the putting the project together, all of the T-shirts come from students of UVU or members of the community.

The acts of violence depicted on the shirts are happening right here in Utah County.

“I drank, I let you in my room, I said no, so it’s my fault. Right?” Was written on a yellow shirt, for those who survived a physical assault.

Like the sound of the gong, going off every 10 to 12 seconds in the room, the statistics regarding violence pound hard and can seem overwhelming. The gong went off to signify each time a woman was reporting being assaulted, according to the National Victims Center statistics.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in the U.S., every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted.

“I was unconscious when I lost my virginity. He was supposed to be my best friend,” was written on a pink shirt, which was for survivors of rape or sexual assault.

Once the rhythm of the gong settled in, it was difficult to not be startled by the sharp sound of the whistle, signifying that a sexual assault is being reported. According to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network statistics, this happens every two minutes.

For those who did not spend much time reading the shirts, they may have missed the haunting sound of the bell, which signified that a woman had been killed by her intimate partner. This happens three to four times per day, according to statistics from End Abuse.

“Thank you, Mom! I won’t forget watching him steal your breath, but I’m so glad you got us out of it,” read a yellow shirt, designated for survivors of physical assault.

Many of the people who come make a shirt have never before spoken about the violence they have survived, according to Briggs.

“People can come here and feel like they’re not alone, and they can also start the healing process,” Briggs said. “It’s a wonderful feeling for people to come and feel safe to tell their story.”

When reading the shirts, it is evident that for some, the healing process is beginning and telling their story, breaking the silence, gives them and others affected by violence hope.

“He stole a piece of who I was. He changed who I would become. It still hurts, but I changed what he made me, and became stronger than I was before,” read one pink shirt.

In that sense, the Clothesline Project is a celebration, a celebration for those who survived, for those who broke the silence, for those who become aware and for those who pledge to stop the violence.

“It didn’t start here…but it stops here,” read a gray shirt for a survivor of emotional, spiritual or verbal abuse.