Breaking the Silence: Giving a Voice to Survivors of Abuse

by Jaime Garispe '11

T-shirts were strung across the cloudy skies in Seven Palms from October 18–22 to give expression to women who have been victims of domestic, emotional, and sexual abuse. Facilitated by the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) at APU, the Clothesline Project was designed for undergraduate women and faculty, although anyone in the community was welcome to participate.

Each participant decorated a T-shirt, which bore witness to the pain and abuse she has suffered. But, why T-shirts? As stated by the official Clothesline Project website, traditionally, laundry has been considered women’s work. In the past, women in close-knit neighborhoods would chat over the backyard fence as they hung clothes to dry.

The process of hanging a shirt in the Clothesline Project has several purposes. First, each shirt is unique to the individual’s experience and gives her an opportunity to break her silence. Second, the shirts also create awareness in the community, allowing those who view the project to better understand the problem of abuse.

Each shirt contributes to the colorful clothesline, creating a sense of community and helping the victims to understand that they are not alone. "The WRC is about respecting women and giving them voice. Listening and caring for one another is what the community is all about," said Shino Simons, associate dean of students. "For many, this is the start of the healing process."

The University Counseling Center partners closely with the WRC in this event so that those who begin their journey to healing through the project can continue to get help and guidance through counseling. "The project is an effort that shows a great level of support for students who may be hurting," said Elaine Walton, Psy.D., psychologist in the University Counseling Center.

Not exclusive to APU, the Clothesline Project operates on a national level. Founded by Rachel Carey-Harper, the first Clothesline Project took place in Hyannis, Massachusetts in October 1990. Presently, it is estimated that the Clothesline Project spans 500 locations, and is comprised of 50,000 to 60,000 T-shirts in 41 states and five countries.

For more information about the project, visit the Women’s Resource Center, or learn more about the national Clothesline Project.