By Editor-in-chief Gabriella Barthe
On October 23, 2019, the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) set up shop along the accessibility ramp in the Library Living Room to showcase their ongoing Clothesline Project in partnership with the Center for Women Gender and Sexuality (CWGS). Lining the ramp and a clothesline immediately next to it were Tee Shirts designed and decorated by women and children survivors of violence as well as by loved ones of those who face abuse.
“Each shirt tells the survivors story in their own unique way,” reads one of the many pamphlets provided by YWCA staff, “Courageously stepping forward, each woman and child has used their own painful experience to break the silence around the issue of violence against women.”
Looking through the display, it was clear to see just how profound these messages were and how intimate an experience it is to share these stories in this fashion. The form mixes therapeutic art practices and public exhibit to give victims back their power and voice in a way that does not ultimately require them to say the words out loud. Though, nonetheless the message is loud and clear.
Each individual piece is voluntarily submitted to the experience and then displayed for all to see at multiple locations. Stories and shirts range from personal accounts of growth and strength in opposition to negative experiences, messages to past abusers, and inspiring calls to end the cycles of violence.
Among the lines of clothing articles were members of the YWCA and CWGS staff available to answer questions and share resources related to abuse. One such piece of information – in the shape of a paper teeshirt – listed ‘5 Things to Say to a Victim’ including: I’m afraid for your safety; I’m afraid for the safety of your children; It will only get worse; I am here for you when you are ready to leave; You don’t deserve to be abused.
The Clothesline Project, being a product of personal and voluntary submissions, has information in regards to donating your own pieces to the presentation – including a consent form that should be mailed with the physical Tee Shirt. Consent forms were presented at the display, but can also be found at the YWCA in New Bedford or online at http://www.ywcasema.org.
In addition to the consent form, a number of guidelines and useful information is presented regarding submissions. Should you wish to involve yourself with the process, you might want to note the color-coding system (albeit optional) that the YWCA has in place.
White for instance is representative of death from violence, while shades of yellow, tan, and brown are designated for domestic violence. Child sexual abuse and incest are denoted by blues and greens while red, pink, and orange represent the adult form of the same issue. Purple and lavender are for attacks based on sexual orientation, grey and silver for emotional, economic or verbal abuse, and black is political abuse directed at women specifically.
What is displayed on the shirt is up to personal artistic interpretation. Embroidery, painting, drawing with markers, sewing or distressing the shirt are all permitted. Any other medium is welcomed as well, and all parts of the clothing article are fair game. The only guideline is that if you choose to name your abuser, please refrain from including their last name.
Shirts can be mailed to The Clothesline Project of the YWCA, YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts, 20 South Sixth Street, New Bedford, MA 02740.
For more information about the project or the YWCA you can contact them directly by phone at 508.999.3255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.