Clothesline Project sends powerful message

By Khrystyna Halatyma
Features Editor
“Heartbreaking”, “tragic”, “shocking” and “informative”. These are the words used by students who have recently experienced the Clothesline Project to describe it.
“[The project] opened my eyes to everything that happens [to women],” sophomore Francesca Ragucci said. “It surprised me there are people in this school and the local schools that were affected by this violence.”
The Clothesline Project, viewed by sophomores enrolled in health, is a visual representation of t-shirts that stand for women who have experienced an act of sexual violence. The t-shirts are categorized by colors (See “What Do the Colors Mean?”) according to the level and category of abuse. Students also hear different sounds while viewing the t-shirts in the community room (see “What Do You Hear?” below).

The shirts are made by anyone who has been affected by this violence, whether it be the survivor themselves, a friend or a family member. If a student wants to make a t-shirt for the project they are able to contact their health teacher or Rachel Rozynek, an educator for Northwest Center for Sexual Assault (NW CASA) who comes in to talk to the health classes.
The project originated in Massachusetts in 1990 by a group of women, many who were survivors themselves, who wanted to raise awareness about violence against women. Inspired by the impact and power of the AIDS quilt visual artist Rachel Carey-Harper came up with the idea of hanging t-shirts on a clothesline.
The first 31 t-shirts collected during that fall 21 years ago pale in comparison to the estimated 50,000 to 60,000 t-shirts collected today, from not only around the country but internationally. The project is currently active in 41 states and five countries, yet on a local scale Roznek said NW CASA collected 175 new t-shirts from the Northwest area last year.
Roznek first saw the Clothesline Project in her college quad and described it as very emotional.
“It wasn’t nearly as intense as the way we do it,” Roznek said. “Thinking about it, when I was in high school I think I would have been crying seeing [the Clothesline Project] because it’s really intense and I think it’s a really powerful thing because it really gives that unique perspective.”
Roznek said she always goes under the assumption that there is at least one survivor in the room. Two of Rozneks relatives and ex-boyfriends have been affected by sexual violence.
“I cried a lot. You feel so helpless because there’s nothing you can do for that person. When it happens to someone close to you, you really feel helpless and very upset.”
Rozneks first thought when coming into a classroom to speak with students is, “I hope everyone’s appropriate.” Followed by an immediate second, “Is there a survivor in the room right now?”
5-10% of students report being survivors in schools.“Especially when students want to make shirts and they share their stories with me,” Roznek said. “It can definitely be a very emotionally packing job…I can’t read the shirts every period or I would go crazy.”
What Do the Colors Mean?
White: For those who have died as a result of violence
Yellow: For those who have been battered or assaulted
Red, Pink, or Orange:  For those who have been raped or sexually assaulted
Blue or Green: For survivors of incest or child abuse
Purple or Lavender: For those who have been attacked because of their (perceived) sexual orientation.
Black: Can be any of the above categories or situations
What Are You Hearing?
The Gong (Every nine seconds): Indicates that a woman is battered every nine seconds
The Whistle (Every minute): Indicates that every minute of the day a woman is raped
The Bell (Every four minutes): Indicates that most likely four women will die every day due to violence by an intimate partner or spouse.
Purpose of the Clothesline Project:
1. To bring witness to survivors’ experiences
2. To help with the healing process for people who have lost a loved one or are survivors of this violence
3. To educate, document and raise awareness of the extent of the problem of sexual violence
4. To stimulate a conversation and create a safe environment where students feel supported in asking questions around the issue of sexual violence
5. To provide an opportunity for students and faculty to make a t-shirt for themselves or someone they know who may have been impacted by sexual violence.