Clothesline Project raises awareness for sexual, domestic violence

The Clothesline Project is a visual display to raise awareness for domestic and sexual abuse, created by survivors to educate attendees on the lived experience of these pressing issues. Graphic by Ivette Pimentel.

*The following article discusses sexual and domestic violence and may be triggering.

Utah Valley University’s Center for Social Impact organized The Clothesline Project in the Grande Ballroom.

The Clothesline Project is designed, “to bring awareness to sexual/domestic [issues] through t-shirts,” said Priscilla Villaseñor-Navarro, a junior in integrated studies and a community organizing and activism fellow at the Center for Social Impact. “It’s to bring a voice to the voices that go unheard, that are suppressed, and that are stigmatized.”

 “The Clothesline Project is a visual display of violence statistics that often go ignored. Each shirt is made by a survivor of violence or by someone who has lost a loved one to violence,” according to the project’s website

The project is meant to increase awareness of the impact of violence and abuse, to honor a survivor’s strength to continue, and to provide another avenue for them to courageously break the silence that often surrounds their experience.

“This year’s special focus is to inform the public of MMIW (Murdered Missing Indigenous Women) and of the continued violence faced by refugees at the U.S.-Mexican border,” according to the project website. “This focus extends the purpose of this project to highlight how certain communities face specific forms of violence because of unique colonial histories. With this in mind, we hope to value the stories of these communities and their active survival.” 

The project features an interactive exhibit that will acknowledge murdered missing indigenous women and ongoing violence at the southwest border: there is also an online gallery.

Different shirt colors represent different situations. White is for someone who died because of violence. Yellow is a survivor of physical assault or domestic violence. Red, pink, and orange represent survivors of rape or childhood sexual abuse. Blue or green is for survivors of incest or childhood sexual abuse. Purple is someone who has been attacked because of their sexual orientation. Brown or gray are survivors of emotional, spiritual, or verbal abuse. Black represents individuals who are disabled as a result of an attack, as well as someone who was assaulted because of a disability. To read more about what each shirt means visit the project website.

To participate in the clotheslines project check out their website.

During the exhibit, participants will hear three distinct sounds, each representing the frequency of specific instances. The gong is struck to indicate someone is being battered, the whistle is blown to indicate a rape is being reported and the bell is rung to indicate that someone has died in a violent attack. 

 It’s important to note that most rapes are not reported, so the frequency is higher than portrayed. “Justice can mean different things to different people, and reporting a crime to law enforcement is an individual decision. Many who have decided to report to law enforcement have described it as the first step in seeking justice for the crime by holding the perpetrator accountable for their actions,” according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). “It may not be an easy decision to make, but it’s a choice that may have a positive impact on your recovery … recovering from sexual assault or abuse is a process, and that process looks different for everyone.” 

“It’s important to have the Clothesline [Project] to create a space where we share these stories of the victims,” Villaseñor-Navarro claimed. “It can be uncomfortable to talk about these kinds of things, but the more we talk about it, the less stigmatized they will become. I think it can also be a way for the victims to let go of some thoughts and feelings they have through the actual shirts.”

Villaseñor-Navarro took approximately two months to organize this project. They shared, “What I would want people to know about this project in particular this year are the two special emphases we have. I hope that they can walk away with a little more knowledge and empathy for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and victims at the southern border.” 

More information and resources can be found on UVU’s Clothesline Project website.

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