Many students could see the rows and rows of shirts the Student Center Quad was decorated with this past week but few knew what they were actually about. They were for the Clothesline Project, an event hosted by the LGBTQ Center and the Women’s Center in collaboration with SAVE of Essex County. The project has been going on every year since 1990 and its goal is to raise awareness to those affected by acts of violence. Those who wish to participate come and decorate a shirt with sayings or designs that are against violence then the shirts are hung on a clothesline as a testament to the issue of abuse.
The project was started when a coalition of women’s groups in Cape Cod, Massachusetts discovered the statistic of 58,000 men dying in the Vietnam War when at the same period of time 51,000 women were killed mostly men who claimed to love them. This pushed these women to create a program to educate and break the silence. Now while the focus back then was more so on women this is a gender-blind issue that must be stopped. 17% of men and 25% of women are victims of sexual assault. The number should be zero.
“They don’t feel like they’ll be believed, they don’t feel that they will have the appropriate support. They’re probably in some instances afraid for their life”, says Tierney Ferry from SAVE (Sexual Assault and Violence Education program). The only crisis center in Essex county. They provide a 24 hour, 7 days a week hotline, therapy for survivors and their family members and run a number of prevention programs.
Prevention is one of the biggest components in the fight to stop domestic violence. 80% of victims are known by a known acquaintance. The subject has recently been brought into the mainstream media by the events surrounding NFL player Ray Rice. “Our culture here is idol worship of athletes…because of the way we look up to these people they aren’t really getting the proper education [about domestic violence].” Tierney Ferry went on to say, “Maybe these teams can institute trainings like gender sensitivity, and against domestic violence and explain why this is wrong and how to deal with your feelings in a more productive manner”.
“There should be more workshops, definitely more education for younger kids.” says Esma Alqudah, a student at Montclair State. “Protect these people without voices, sometimes they don’t know its wrong. A lot of rape molestation victims later on in life can’t even remember what happened because they convinced themselves it was something they accepted.” She added, “It could happen to anyone at any age, look for the signs and always be aware. Be aware that this could be happening to anyone.”
Shirts began piling up, decorated with phrases against violence. Allison Curry, a junior and volunteer at the Women’s Center, her shirt read “don’t judge yourself by what others did to you”. This stuck out among the rest because it shows hope after the wrong that has been done to the victim. Now while the Clothesline Project encourages victims to share their stories out loud, some may only need the chance to vent through designing a shirt. The process of designing the shirt gives them a voice that they need.
“The Clothesline Project honors women survivors as well as victims of intimate violence. Any woman who has experienced such violence, at any time in her life, is encouraged to come forward and make a shirt. Victims families and friends are also invited to participate.”
Montclair State | New Jersey