Annual Clothesline Project brings awareness to sexual abuse

From Oct. 10-14 at Seven Palms, the Office of Women’s Development (OWD) took part in the national campaign that started in 1990 on Cape Cod, Mass. to address the issue of violence against women by bringing healing and awareness.

Survivors had the opportunity to anonymously write their stories on shirts and hang them up on display, and those who would stand with them in solidarity could write messages on socks. Additionally, men had the opportunity to make a pledge to help end violence against women and display their commitment on colored paper. The OWD sought for eyes to be opened, burdens to be lessened and hearts to be mended.

Junior english major Esther Yorke volunteered her week to the event for her second time in three years.

“The main purpose of The Clothesline Project would be to bring awareness, but it’s also a therapeutic process,” Yorke said. “They started the project as a tradition of women putting their clothes up on the clothesline and talking to their neighbors about what they’ve experienced. Writing it out is definitely a therapeutic process for whoever has experienced something like that, but it’s also in a public place where other students can see that their peers have been affected by that.”

Despite the green grass, the palm trees and the colors of all that’s hanging on the clotheslines, the event is treated with gravity and seriousness.

Senior English and journalism double major Cynthia Arroyo described the awareness that many have experienced through The Clothesline Project.

“What we’ve found is that even if you’re not a survivor, it opens eyes to see that this happens on campus, this could be the person I’m sitting next to in class. It’s a very sobering event.”

Arroyo, an undergraduate intern in the OWD, stressed the importance of men getting involved in the event alongside women.

“The reason we included that is because we wanted to recognize their part in helping to end this epidemic,” Arroyo said.

Male students, faculty and staff made pledges to help end violence against women by vowing against using offensive language and blindly purporting rape culture. The pledge also included a promise to stand with women who find themselves in these dangerous situations.

“We know that we’re 50 percent of the population as women, more than 50 percent at APU, but there’s also men,” Arroyo said. “If men aren’t taking a stand to help the cause then we are going to progress much slower, so that’s just an effort to involve them.”

Madeline Ho, the coordinator for the event, said she sees awareness and healing for violence against women spreading out even further than The Clothesline Project.

“The hope is that the Clothesline Project isn’t the only time a year that people at APU think about something like that. It shouldn’t just be a week out of our lives, it should be something that we’re talking about all the time,” Ho said.

Ho said she realizes that the stigma of sexual abuse is an obstacle in bringing an end to the kind of violence The Clothesline Project exposes.

“It’s something that is taboo and nobody really wants to talk about it,” Ho said. “I think that’s made apparent when people come by and they read the shirts and ask, ‘but are these APU students? Or are you just grabbing these from the community?’ It always shocks them to learn that no, these are shirts written by APU students or staff or faculty. Every shirt has come from here. That just shows how much more we need to talk about this topic.”

With the importance of bringing awareness and healing to violence against women, Ho believes that the open conversation that happens at The Clothesline Project should be a continuous practice.

“We should always hear their stories and create an environment where they’re allowed to tell their stories, “ Ho said.

Not only should the conversation continue, but Ho believes it should spread out beyond the walls and familiarity of APU.

“For us to have this special group of people experience this event, it motivates you to go out and have this conversation anywhere. You don’t just have to have this conversation with APU people here, you can go out and have it any time,” Ho said. “I think it’s just as important to stress this cause to anyone in your life, and this is a good kick starter because it makes you more aware. If this happens this much on this campus, I wonder how much it’s happening on every other campus as well, and are people talking about it?”

For more information on The Clothesline Project or the OWD, visit their office behind Cougar Dome or online at apu.edu/womens-development/. Contact the office at owd@apu.edu or (626) 815-2068.

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