Clothesline Project brings awareness to Domestic Violence Month

Jillian Kelly led the counseling center and Step Up Griffs to unveil the Clothesline Project at Canisius, a campaign bringing awareness of domestic violence and other assault against women.

The counseling centor and Step Up Griffs co-sponsored the Clothesline Project at Canisius (Photo courtesy Jillian Kelly)

Strings of colorful t-shirts have appeared hung on the walls of hallways at Canisius this week. 

It’s not someone’s dirty laundry ⁠— it’s a campaign called the Clothesline Project, launched by the counseling center to highlight Domestic Violence Awareness Month. 

The Clothesline Project isn’t local to Canisius; it was created in 1990 in Hyannis, Mass., when members of the Cape Cod Women’s Defense Agenda learned that 51,000 women in the area were victims of domestic violence at the same time as 58,000 soldiers perished in the Vietnam War. 

Since 1998 the official clothesline made of hundreds of shirts has hung at Utah Valley University. Each shirt is a different color to represent a different problem – white to represent those who have died as a result of violence, red to represent rape and sexual assault survivorship, and so on. 

Each shirt on the official clothesline contains a personal message made by a survivor or loved ones. Some stories are difficult to read while others offer messages of forgiveness and love. 

The project was bought to Canisius two years ago by a graduate assistant. After a year’s hiatus, current counseling center graduate assistant Jillian Kelly made the decision to bring the clothesline back to campus to raise awareness of the problem of domestic violence. 

“I think the t-shirts remind students of these different kinds of violence and reminds them that it is an issue,” Kelly said. “I think it’s something we talk about now and people are getting desensitized to. So, the impact of seeing these different stories on different shirts is a quick reminder of it.”

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 32.3 percent of New York women and 33.5 percent of New York men experience some form of domestic violence, including “intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence and/or intimate partner stalking.” 

The NCADV coined Domestic Violence Awareness Month in 1981 in response to the domestic violence epidemic. The Clothesline Project was taken up by the Canisius counseling center, in conjunction with Step Up Griffs, as the big project of the month.

The center set up tables in the hallway by the Griff Center and the library where students could sign shirts to hang. Kelly said she was pleased with the student response. 

“In total, I think we had two shirts that students signed and eighty students in total sign, which was really awesome,” she said. “We had five or six students that made a shirt of their own.” 

The shirts will be on display in the library and in the tunnel hallways until next Wednesday. 

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