In honor of October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Murray State Women’s Center hosted B.E. S.A.F.E. week from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4.
The week introduced what is known as the Clothesline Project.
From Sept. 16 to Oct. 2, students and faculty were given the opportunity to visit the Women’s Center and create a T-shirt to express their own stories of domestic violence or to honor someone they know who has been affected by domestic or relationship violence.
The shirts were then hung in the Curris Center for public viewing and will continue to be shown until Oct. 31.
According to the Domestic Violence Project, Inc. website, the project was originally started in Hyannis, Mass., in the fall of 1990 where 31 T-shirts were created for public view.
Since then, the project has been recognized and participated in globally.
“The Clothesline Project is something we at the Women’s Center have been doing for several years now at Murray State,” Stephanie Smith, senior from Murray, said. “It’s also something that is done across the country. People who have been affected by any sort of interpersonal violence including rape, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking can create a T-shirt to express their own stories.”
The color of each T-shirt holds a special meaning, Smith said.
To honor a woman who has died due to some type of violence, a white T-shirt is used; yellow or beige for women who have ever been the victim of battery or assault; red, pink or orange for women who have been raped or sexually assaulted; blue or green for women who are survivors of incest or child sexual abuse and purple or lavender for women who have been attacked because of their sexual orientation.
“When we hang (the T-shirts) up, one thing some may not notice is, they’re all touching,” Smith said. “This shows the women and everyone else viewing them that we’re all in this together.”
The Women’s Center on campus hosted the event in order to reach out to women of all ages and backgrounds, and encourage them to speak out about domestic and other types of violence.
Smith said according to The Women’s Center as well as the Domestic Violence Project, Inc. website, the Clothesline Project is used to bear witness to the survivors and victims of violence.
It helps aid in the healing process of the people affected, educates and raises the awareness of the issue of violence in today’s society, she said.
“By organizing this event, we are able to give women their voices back,” Smith said.
The process of creating the T-shirts wasn’t long or difficult. Shirts as well as paints, dyes, glitter and other decorative supplies were provided by the Women’s Center. The creator was then able to decorate the T-shirt in any way they chose.
According to the Domestic Violence Project Inc. website, naming the perpetrator is an important step in the healing process.
Names of perpetrators could be included on the shirts as long as it was only the first name or the initials of a person.
Full names were not allowed to be on the shirts.
Drawings, iron-on photographs and quotes were popular in the storytelling of the women.
“The experience is therapeutic in a way,” Shamika Stiles, junior from Murray, said. “It let the women leave their burdens behind and to release what they’ve been holding in. It also allowed them to be a part of something bigger and to encourage other women to tell their stories.”
According to the Women’s Center website, some type of domestic violence affects an estimated four million women each year.
Nearly one in every three women experience physical assault during adulthood and approximately 3.3 million children are exposed to domestic violence each year. Only one-seventh of all domestic assaults are brought to the attention of the police, according to the Women’s Center.
Story by Katrina Yabrough, Contributing Writer