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Archive for Thursday, April 19, 2007

Clothesline project opens eyes

T-shirts made by abuse survivors a form of therapy for women

April 19, 2007

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Kansas University junior Amelia Crowl, Emporia, reads a sleeve of a T-shirt that was decorated by an abuse victim for the annual Clothesline Project. T-shirts were displayed in Hashinger Hall to raise awareness of domestic abuse. The Clothesline Project is sponsored by Women's Transitional Care Services.

Kansas University junior Amelia Crowl, Emporia, reads a sleeve of a T-shirt that was decorated by an abuse victim for the annual Clothesline Project. T-shirts were displayed in Hashinger Hall to raise awareness of domestic abuse. The Clothesline Project is sponsored by Women's Transitional Care Services.

These two T-shirts from the Clothes-line project represent two victims of abuse. The Clothesline Project will also be on display Saturday at the Earth Day celebration in South Park.

These two T-shirts from the Clothes-line project represent two victims of abuse. The Clothesline Project will also be on display Saturday at the Earth Day celebration in South Park.

Art exhibit tells stories of domestic violence

They've hung their suffering out to dry and in an effort to cope, victims of domestic violence have become artists, translating their experience into a permanent reminder of this highly unreported crime. Enlarge video

The words were painted in angry, slashing strokes on the wrinkled T-shirts:

"You sexually, physically, verbally abused me," one said.

Another said, "You totally destroyed my car with sledge hammers and bats. You tried to make me disappear by setting my house on fire."

And still another "To 'Ma' - I'm sorry you had to die to escape your pain. Watch over us tonight."

Hanging like symbols of defiance, some four dozen painted T-shirts that expressed a response to violence against women were on display Wednesday afternoon at Hashinger Hall on Kansas University's campus.

"The Clothesline Project," which was made available by Women's Transitional Care Services, or WTCS, was being shown as part of Spring Arts Week.

Each of the shirts was decorated by either the survivor herself or by people who care about her, said Sonja Heath, outreach coordinator for WTCS.

"Usually people are pretty shocked at what they read on the shirts," Heath said.

WTCS operates a safe shelter for women and children who are survivors of domestic violence in Douglas, Jefferson and Franklin counties.

The T-shirt project began in the late 1970s, she said.

"It was a program that was designed to let people share the experience of their domestic violence by putting their story on a shirt," she said.

Some have words, some have symbols and some have images. Making the shirts can be therapeutic.

"It's also a way for them to anonymously share their experience with other people," Heath said.

WTCS, which has a few hundred shirts in all, set up the display for three hours at the student residence hall. About 25 students per hour dropped in to see it.

The Clothesline Project will be displayed again at the Earth Day celebration Saturday in South Park, Heath said.

Diane Hall, who is president of Hashinger Arts Council, was participating in another WTCS project, which allowed cash donors to place their painted handprint on a canvas.

"Once all the handprints are put upon it, I'm going to paint across it, 'These hands don't hurt,'" Hall said. "It symbolizes that we are part of the community that cares about women who have been battered. : I think that it touches home with a lot of people."

One of those was Katie Tebow, a sophomore from Suffolk, Va., who participated in the handprint project.

"I didn't have the best childhood growing up," Tebow said. "It's been a lot better since. I sympathize."

She chose yellow to make her handprint.

"It could be the sun, but it could also be fear," she said. "Dipping your hand in it, knowing it could be fear, is like overcoming it."

Jared Elfrink, a junior from Belleville, Ill., said he thought the project was worthwhile.

"Luckily, we live on a campus where it's not that much of an issue," Elfrink said. "This hall is very open to the sharing of ideas."

Will Sellers, a senior from Sterling, Va., who works for Sexual Violence, Education and Support Services at the Student Involvement Leadership Center at KU's Emily Taylor Women's Resource Center, walked through the displays, looking at the handprints and the words on the shirts.

"I thought it was very powerful to see some of the strength of these women coming through," he said.

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