In observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), West Virginia University at Parkersburg is hosting the local Clothesline Project, a visual display that bears witness to violence against women. The local Clothesline Project includes displays for survivors and victims of both domestic violence and sexual assault. Both displays will be shared with the public on Monday, April 3 from noon to 7 p.m. and Tuesday, April 4 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.in the College Activities Center. The college’s Jackson County Center in Ripley will also host a display on Wednesday, April 19 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
During the public display, a clothesline is hung with shirts. Each shirt is decorated to represent a particular person’s experience. The purpose of the project is to raise awareness, assist victims with the healing process, and provide a nationwide network of support, encouragement and information for other communities starting their own Clothesline Projects.
The Clothesline Project program began in Cape Cod, Mass. in 1990 to address the issue of violence against women. It is a vehicle for women affected by violence to express their emotions by decorating a shirt to be viewed by others as testimony to the issue. The project has since spread worldwide with an estimated 500 projects throughout 41 states and five countries.
Sources indicate that nearly one in five women and one in 71 men in the U.S. have experienced rape or attempted rape at some time during their lives.
“All of us have a responsibility to help create the culture of respect needed to challenge social norms that allow oppression and inequalities to exist,” said Debbie Richards, social justice administrator at WVU Parkersburg. “We can speak up when we hear sexist, homophobic, transphobic or racist attitudes, and we can model supportive behaviors by never blaming a victim.”
This event, sponsored by the WVU Parkersburg Social Justice Committee, is planned to coincide with the SAAM Day of Action (April 4), a day set aside to focus on sexual assault awareness and prevention.