From a distance, the Grande Ballroom filled with colorful t-shirts seemed like a blissful place to be, but up close the words on the t-shirts took a different toll on those observing.
The Clothesline Project displayed shirts made by survivors of violent acts, encouraging them to tell their stories. The hanging shirts could be read by anyone who attended the event.
There were twelve different colors of shirts consisting of white, yellow, pink, red, orange, blue, green, purple, black, grey and brown. Each color signified a different form of violence; however, using the specific color code was not mandatory.
While onlookers walked around the ballroom and read the shirts, they heard sounds that indicated a violent act in the U.S. A gong went off every 10 seconds to indicate a woman was being assaulted. Every two minutes a whistle symbolized a sexual assault was being reported. A bell meant a woman had been killed by her intimate partner.
Sponsored by the Equity in Education Center, Turning Point and Women’s Success Center, the display brought in more than 1200 people this year.
Jennie Briggs, director of the Equity in Education Center, said The Clothesline Project’s goal is to raise awareness of the reality of violence and to encourage the community to stop the epidemic. The display also provides support for survivors of violence and their families and serves to give them a voice.
“It takes a lot of courage and strength to make a shirt,” Briggs said. “It’s a very healing thing to do.”
The Clothesline Project was brought to UVU in 1998. It is displayed twice a year, once in April and once in October to commemorate sexual assault awareness and domestic violence awareness months.
The project at UVU has grown from having a few shirts under a canopy in the courtyard to hundreds being hung in aisles in the Grand Ballroom. Its purpose is to reflect the reality that violence is a problem everywhere. All of the shirts in the display were made by people in Utah County visiting The Clothesline Project.
Japheth McGee, an attendee at the event, was surprised to see the violence that had taken place in his community.
“I’ve lived in Utah County for about 10 years and that’s not something you’d expect here,” McGee said.
The shirts that are displayed are not censored. The creators of the project believe it allows survivors of violence to share their stories in their own personal ways.
Heather Matheson, another attendee at the event, wasn’t as astonished to read about the violent acts taking place in Utah County.
“I think a lot of people just push it out of the way and say ‘this can’t happen to people I know’ or ‘this doesn’t happen to people in my class,’” Matheson said, “but it’s real.”
The Clothesline Project creators ask that people use the display as a motivation to end violence.
Chris Westergard, a volunteer at The Clothesline Project, said she wishes fewer shirts were made in hopes that less abuse, rape and trauma occur.
“I wish overall we didn’t have to have a Clothesline Project,” Westergard said. “I wish the problem didn’t exist.”
People are encouraged to write as much or as little as they feel necessary on the shirts to share their thoughts. One shirt read, “I will never ‘get over it,’ however I do ‘get through it.’ ”