The last weekend in March featured a public art T-shirt project to raise awareness of rape, assault and sexual violence. The public art was exhibited on the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University. Survivors of abuse (male and female) each created a personal message on T-shirts which were hung like festive banners, clothes-line style all across the main walkways of the OWU campus. (This was during all the television media coverage of the Steubenville rape trial, with Ohio State Attorney General Mike DeWine still issuing statements.) The topic was certainly top of mind, and for survivors, it’s sometimes pushed out-of-mind, or comes back later because of the trauma of it all. The color of each shirt carries specific symbolism for survivors of childhood trauma including incest, to shirts in memory of victims of domestic violence.
Titled: ‘The Clothesline Project”, a large sheet held the message that “these shirts have been decorated by OWU students as a way to break the silence and raise awareness about the issues of sexual assault and rape.” The individual messages read: ‘Assault, think about it. Now STOP it!’; ‘I can be restored’; ‘If you have to push for a YES, it’s a No’; ‘Stay strong, you aren’t alone’; ‘I will Never forget. I am a Survivor’; ‘Each of US is someone’s daughter, sister, best friend, mother’; ‘Being too drunk to say no is not the same as saying yes’; ‘(this is why we still need feminism) 1 in 4 Women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes’; ‘males are also victims’ and countless other messages, blowing in the March wind.
Sexual abuse is one of many triggers of PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder. Pomegranate Clinical Director Demetra Taylor said, ‘This is an important topic and a contributor to mental and behavioral illness in both male and female adolescents because oftentimes victims of sexual abuse remain silent and do not seek help which can lead to depression, PTSD, substance abuse, etc.
Nursing Director Rosetta Cowan RN, BSN added, “It is necessary to express and release such emotional and physical turmoil in a positive, holistic, and healing manner such as this project. Self-advocacy and awareness are key elements to the healing process. “ Here’s a link to read more about The Clothesline Project website. View videos, photos, listen to concerts, and read about this powerful witness around the world. The website says, “At the moment we estimate there are 500 projects nationally and internationally with an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 shirts. We know of projects in 41 states and 5 countries.” See http://www.clotheslineproject.org/
[Photo credit: author’s photos- from OWU Campus, March 2013, The Clothesline Project]