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Clothesline Project looks to spark dialogue, empower survivors

| Friday, September 30, 2016

The Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) will display T-shirts with empowering messages for survivors of violence from Oct. 1-9 in Cushwa-Leighton Library and the Student Center atrium.

Junior Abbie Spica, co-chair of BAVOs student advisory committee for events and campaigns, said this initiative, known as the Clothesline Project, aims to raise awareness about issues affecting Saint Mary’s students.

We give the opportunity for students to express their emotions relating to violence against women,” she said. I think having such a visual display in such a central area promotes conversation.”

Spica said the messages conveyed in previous Clothesline Projects are still relevant, so this upcoming event will reuse T-shirts from last year rather than have students create new ones. She said the ideas and sentiments expressed on the T-shirts reflect the voices of Saint Mary’s women, support survivors and encourage healing.

“… a very clear reminder that violence has affected many of our women on campus because the statements on the shirts are so emotive and very heartfelt,” Spica said.“It puts a different perspective on how that violence has affected people.”

Junior Marilla Opra, marketing representative of the events and campaigns committee, said she hopes the Clothesline project shows Saint Mary’s students the importance of taking a stand against violence.

“I think it’s important that everyone takes initiative because it’s not going to be effective if only certain small groups are doing it,” she said.“This doesn’t just affect us as a women’s school. It’s not even just a women’s issue.”

Opra said the T-shirt displays will unify the student body and reinforce the importance of supporting peers.

“Because the shirts come from students on this campus, it’s statements that you could imagine your friends or even yourself saying, so it allows you to put yourself in that position,” she said. “[The Clothesline Project] is representative of this community, and I think it’s important to be an active member.”

The Clothesline Project will provoke empathy in students as they learn from the traumatic experiences some of their classmates have endured, Spica said. She said students may begin to view violence against women from new perspectives once they realize it has touched the lives of their peers.

“Statistically we know that violence affects women on our campus, but it’s really different when you see statements of hope and healing and even anger,” Spica said.

The Clothesline Project is not unique to Saint Mary’s, for colleges everywhere acknowledge pertinent issues of violence that affect community members, Spica said.

“The Clothesline project is specific to the pocketed communities that it’s displayed in, but the overall message of ending violence and showing the effect that violence has on people is pretty continuous throughout the entire country,” she said.“It promotes dialogue about ‘What do the shirts say? What does that mean for our community? How has this impacted our peers? How has this impacted my friends?’”

Spica said that though the Clothesline Project may last for only one week, the overall impression remains forever ingrained in the hearts and minds of students.

“They’re raw, unprompted statements that people write on shirts,” she said.“It’s this big display that we are a community that will not tolerate violence against women.”

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About Martha Reilly

Martha is a senior majoring in English literature and political science. She currently serves as Saint Mary's editor but still values the Oxford comma in everyday use.

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