Clothesline project airs out abuse

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Business and Professional Women’s Club 16 Days of Activism against Gender Abuse Campaign which runs to 10 December.

16 Days of Activism against Gender Abuse is an international campaign that began in 1991 to raise the awareness of all forms of violence against women.

This year’s theme, Strength through Caring and Sharing, reflects the BPW Club’s hope that victims and survivors of abuse will gain strength through knowing the community does care and are willing to share their burden.

‘The community will learn that through caring and sharing they can not only give strength to the victims and survivors of abuse but to the community itself,’ said 16 Days Committee Chair Angela Doyle.

The kick-off was marked on Saturday, the International Day Against Violence Against Women with the Clothesline Project.

The Clothesline Project is an international project that began in 1990, when members of the Cape Cod Women’s Agenda in Massachusetts hung a clothesline across the village green in Hyannis, with 31 shirts designed by survivors of assault, rape and incest.

Women viewing the clothesline came forward to create shirts of their own, and the line just kept growing.

Since that first display, The Clothesline Project has grown to more than 300 Clothesline Projects in the US and internationally, with an estimated 35,000 shirts.

Running for the fourth year, the Clothesline Project allows both male and female survivors of any form of violence; anyone who has experienced or witnessed violence at home as a child; or their supporters to publicly express their feelings about violence by designing a T-shirt.

WRC Programme Officer Lisa Hurlstone explained: ‘The Clothesline Project helps participants to air their feelings about past wrongs done to them, and it allows observers to recognise abuse in ways and forms that they may not have previously seen – perhaps even in their own lives.’

The Clothesline Project is also supported by the National Gallery and its art outreach programmes, which cater to high-risk young persons and incarcerated individuals. WRC staff will visit the individuals in the outreach programmes to encourage them to design T-shirts, in order to let their voices be heard.

Organizers say the Clothesline Project is a way to help people face the brutal reality of personal violence against women, children and men in the community, and to start to heal the damage.

The project brings together survivors of all forms of violence or supporters of victims/survivors to design T-shirts as a testament to their experience. These deeply personal expressions are then hung on a clothesline for public display, to air the issue of violence in homes and communities, WRC officials explain.

For many survivors, making shirts and finally seeing their stories hang in unison with the stories of others allows them to own their pain and express their anger.

T-shirts are colour-coded for different types of violence. However, the codes are not mandatory, should participants wish to use other colours that are significant to them.

White represents a memorial for victims of murder; yellow, the artist survived physical battery or abuse; red, the artist survived rape or sexual assault; green, the artist survived incest or child sexual abuse; and purple, the artist witnessed or experienced family abuse as a child.

The whole Clothesline Project collection will be displayed around the Government Administration Building during the 27 November to 10 December period.


For more information on the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Abuse, please contact the Women’s Resource Centre at 949-0006 or [email protected]. The calendar of events is posted on

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