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Clothesline Project addresses violence

A project to address the issue of violence against women started in 1990 by a small group of women in Massachusetts has gone global.

The Clothesline Project (CLP) is a vehicle for women affected by violence to express their emotions by decorating T-shirts. Ohio University Southern student activities assistant and member of the college’s council on diversity, Michelle Dotts, is bringing the project to campus.

“A lot of people don’t want to talk about violence against women because it’s not a pretty subject,” Dotts said. “The idea behind the T-shirts is they provide at least some type of relief for survivors, friends and family members of victims of violence against women.”

The decorated shirts act as testimonials and are hung on a clothesline at a central location for viewing by others. Dotts’ interest in the project is twofold; she is a survivor of child sexual abuse and her mother is a survivor of domestic violence.

“I saw this project on display when I was a student at Wright State,” she said. “It is something I knew I could do on my own and I asked OUS for permission and was told I could do it. It’s the first time the project has been done around here.”

The idea for using a clothesline was chosen because laundry has historically been considered “women’s work” and women in close-knit neighborhoods would often share information over backyard fences while hanging out clothes to dry. The concept of the shirts is to allow each woman to tell her story in her own unique way.

“Since it’s not often spoken about, seeing something tangible makes it real,” Dotts said. “There are websites where women can post publicly and anonymously about abuse and statistics show just being able to get the word out there really helps a lot of women.”

Different colored shirts represent different types of violence or abuse and any woman who has experienced such violence is encouraged to design a shirt. Family and friends of victims and survivors are also invited to participate. Project organizers define victims as women who died at the hands of her abuser.

“This project is a chance for our students to show they are good community citizens,” Shelly Betz, OUS marketing and public information officer, said. “We encourage our students to get involved.”

OUS is providing the T-shirts for the project and they will be on display Monday, March 17 through Friday, March 21.