The Clothesline Project
October isn’t just Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Instead of sharing statistics that you can easily find online to show how prevalent domestic violence and interpersonal violence is, I’m going to share a story:
Last spring, my university’s chapter of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance co-hosted the Clothesline Project. The Clothesline Project raises awareness about interpersonal violence by physically showing how many people have been affected as represented by t-shirts. You can decorate a t-shirt for yourself, for someone you know, or for someone you don’t know. Our event happened to be the same week that a senior girl had been tragically murdered by her ex-boyfriend, so we got a lot of her friends coming by to make t-shirts. Sadly, it brought the project a lot closer to our college and reminded the student body how domestic violence can affect anyone. However, that’s not the story I’m going to share.
Another girl from FMLA and I were tabling for both the club and the project, and it was pretty uneventful. Tabling tends to be that way. Occasionally people come by with stupid questions, but for the most part you sit smiling for a shift or two. After awhile, a middle-aged woman came over and asked about the project. We explained the significance of each color of t-shirt and that it was free and that she could make a t-shirt for anyone.
“Oh, that’s great, that’s great. I used to be in an abusive relationship, but I got out of that. I’m not going to make a t-shirt for me though. I’m going to make one for my friend,” she told us.
“That’s great!” we told her. “Yeah, she stayed with him too long. But they’re not together anymore. I made sure of that. I was at her house one day when he came around and started bangin’ on the door yellin’ at us to let him in. And I just knew that if he came in he would kill her. Of course we were both scared because he was crazy, but he didn’t know that I was crazier. I grabbed a knife from the kitchen, and while he was screamin’ and bangin’ on the door, I told my friend to open the door. When she opened it I just started swingin’ the knife as fast as I could. And he saw me and jumped back and ran the fastest I’ve ever seen to his car and drove away. And they never saw each other again. They’re divorced, and she’s with a real man now, but that’s why I’m gonna make a t-shirt for her.”
We were obviously in awe. “Yeah! Go ahead!”
Clearly, fighting violence with violence is not the answer. However, the courage that this woman had to fight for her friend is amazing, and I hope that everyone has a friend that they could find the same sort of courage to defend and that their friend would do the same for them.
The Clothesline Project is easy to bring to your school if it hasn’t been there already, and I would highly recommend getting a group together and hosting it. Domestic violence has likely affected you or someone you know, and you owe it to them to get people to care.
Liz P blogs about feminism, current events, pop culture, and teens at her blog Our Turn.
More articles in WMC FBomb by Category: Body image and body standards, Feminism, Health, Violence against women
More articles in WMC FBomb by Tag: Domestic violence, Sexualized violence, Sexuality, Activism and advocacy