Every year, Voorhees Mall behind Scott Hall is lined with colorful shirts hanging on clothespins. These shirts are created by survivors and those affected by sexual assault, domestic violence, child sexual abuse/incestuous abuse, physical assault or death. This display is put on by The Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance (VPVA) as part of their mission to raise awareness about interpersonal violence in our community.
The Clothesline Project is a visual display that bears witness to honor survivors and encourage healing as well as provide an opportunity to openly and honestly examine what is happening every day in our communities. Each shirt is decorated in an individual and unique way by a survivor of interpersonal violence or by a caring individual in the community who wants to make their voice heard on issues of interpersonal violence.
Shirts for this project can be created by anyone whether they’re a survivor or supporter and they are color-coded to signify the different types of violence.
- White: Individuals murdered by acts of interpersonal violence
- Yellow: Domestic / Dating Violence
- Red or Orange: Sexual Assault / Rape
- Blue or Green: Incestuous abuse or child sexual abuse
- Purple: For individuals attacked because of their perceived sexual identity
- Black: Gang Rape
The history of the project dates back to 1990 in Cape Cod, Massachusetts where members of the Women’s Agenda hung t-shirts to document their own personal stories about surviving interpersonal violence. The project has since grown into a phenomenon with over 300 plus Clothesline Projects and over 35,000 t-shirts hung nationally and internationally. The purpose of the project is to put a human face on statistics of interpersonal violence. Many of the shirts created are from family and friends of those who have died as a result of this violence.
The Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance (VPVA) began their Clothesline Project in 1998 and now includes over 500 shirts. The Clothesline Project is one of the first major events sponsored by VPVA. It provides healing for survivors and hopes to encourage survivors to come forward and understand that their voices matter. Laura Luciano, Interim Director for the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance, expands on the office’s hope for the program:
A message that we really want to send is that for survivors there is a place for them to talk about it and they don’t have to be ashamed or afraid to share their experiences, that they will be believed and supported if they choose to come forward.
The Office of Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance provides many resources for anyone experiencing interpersonal violence, survivors of interpersonal violence, or their friends and family. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and there will be several events sponsored by the Office of Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance to raise awareness.
To learn more about the resources, support, events, and learning opportunities provided by the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance, visit their website: vpva.rutgers.edu
To learn more about Rutgers University’s End Sexual Violence Now campaign, visit: endsexualviolence.rutgers.edu