Heartache and hope

Victims of abuse express their pain and hope on t-shirts as part of the clothesline project. Gilbert Cisneros/UVU Review

During the Vietnam War, 58,000 soldiers were killed. During that same time 51,000 women in the United States were killed by men claiming to love them.

The Clothesline Project, held on Oct. 20-21, was created in order to bring statistics, like those mentioned above, into the public view. The project uses T-shirts and three distinct sounds to convey their message.

The shirts display hope and heartache.

The stories they tell are about real people. They are intense, disturbing, painful and hate driven while being filled with beauty, love and healing.

They are written by survivors or families and friends of victims of abuse. There are over 1,000 shirts stored for the UVU project with 90 to 120 created each year.

“For all da girls who have been hurt it’s not your fault you are beautiful you are a daugther of God,” reads one shirt.

Different colored shirts have different meanings. White shirts represent men and women who have died from violence. Yellow shirts are for survivors of physical assault. Red, pink and orange represent rape or sexual assault.

Blue or green shirts are for survivors of incest or childhood abuse.

“You are still the monster under my bed,” reads one of the shirts about a childhood rape.

Purple or lavender represent those attacked for their sexual orientation. Black is for people who became disabled as a result of an attack.

Gray is for verbal or emotional abuse. Brown is for spiritual abuse. Every color is hanging from the clotheslines and there is no shortage of any color.

“As much as we need help and healing, we need people to stop,” said Sabrina Collard who filled out a shirt for her and a shirt for her sister. “Somebody needs to stop them.”

Collard said that while she was making her shirt, there was a number of others doing the same thing. One of the men said he thought he was going to be the only one doing it. Another said he was wishing he would be.

The sounds of a gong, a whistle and a bell represent reported abuse stats in real time. The gong was struck every 10 to 12 seconds for a women battered in the United States.

The whistle blew each minute signaling a reported rape, though most rapes are not reported in America. The bell sounds 3 to 4 times a day and indicates how often a women is killed in a violent attack.

“It’s a poignant and an overwhelming feeling” said Ben Tuttle, a UVU student. When asked about the most shocking part he replied, “Just the gong.”

Hilari Bloomfield, a freshman, was brought to tears when talking about her experience, especially regarding how long people have had to live with the burden.

The people that attend for the first time generally see more heartache. The volunteers who run the event view more of it as hope.

Three of the volunteers, Syndee Seeley, Katie Salmon and Mindy Steadman, told a story of a big man that came in to do a shirt and as he left he said, crying, “This is the most freeing thing I’ve done.”

Jennie Briggs is the director of the equity in education center and has been involved in the Clothesline Project since 2006, when she made her first shirt.

“I am honored to be able to be a part of it and awed by brave people that make shirts,” Briggs said.

One volunteer, when asked whether she saw heartache or hope, answered with a smile, “Hope.”

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