A single clothesline hangs from the Tivoli ceiling, just above a stairway, with T-shirts — a rainbow of colors — hanging vibrantly. Though it appears to be just a line of shirts, it’s actually a piece of art with paintings and writing, assembled to speak out against sexual violence.
Lisa Ingarfield, associate director of The Phoenix Center at Auraria, believes these T-shirts are an opportunity for survivors and their families to express their feelings about sexual violence. According to Ingarfield, decorating a T-shirt is not only for survivors, victims and their families, but for anyone wanting to speak out against sexual violence.
“Sexual violence concerns everyone,” Ingarfield said. “We all have someone in our life who has had this experience, whether they have disclosed it to us or not.”
The Clothesline Project, according to Ingarfield, began in 1990 in Cape Cod, Mass. when women in the surrounding community wanted to turn their experiences into something the public couldn’t ignore. The shirts gave women an opportunity to express their stories while also serving as a coping tool and outlet for their feelings about personal violence.
Ten years later, the project, according to The Clothesline Project website, is in 41 states and five other countries, and more than 50,000 shirts have been decorated. They not only display the effects of sexual violence against women, but against men as well.The Phoenix Center provides information, resources and awareness for those who have suffered sexual assault, relationship violence and/or stalking. It has been at Auraria for a year and started The Clothesline Project as a way for students of all three institutions to share their personal experiences with this issue.
“Right now it is visually striking and draws attention to the number of survivors on this campus,” Ingarfield said.
Ingarfield thinks the only way to see a change in society’s view on sexual violence or to help prevent it is to highlight the fact sexual attacks are never OK under any circumstances, and the community as a whole needs to join together against them.
“The Clothesline Project doesn’t get at all of this, but it is a piece of the puzzle,” Ingarfield said.
Michele Rubright, an intern at The Phoenix Center, thinks the clothesline of T-shirts creates a physical testament to violence rather than just seeing numbers and statistics.
“You can see something beautiful that defines it,” Rubright said.
Rubright’s favorite shirt says, “You may have forgotten my face or that I even existed, but the scars you carved into my soul that night will stay with me for the rest of my life,” in blue writing.
“Some of the shirts are pretty and have fun sayings like ‘consent is sexy’ but this one is really kind of sad,” Rubright said after reading the shirt out loud.
Climbing the stairs in the Tivoli makes reading some of the shirts easier. Messages such as: “Beaten, Raped and nearly Murdered. I’m still here and I am shining,” pulls on the audience’s emotions and brings the issue to life. According to Ingarfield, this is the reaction The Clothesline Project is supposed to produce from those who view it.
“It’s hard not to walk past and not read some of them and peak your curiosity,” Ingarfield said. “We want to inspire people to action.”