Hanging shirts commemorate those affected by violence

Mitchell Grogg

A collection of T-shirts on a makeshift clothesline outside of Downing University Center drew attention to those affected by sexual and physical abuse.

Connie Kingrey-Knapp, a Hope Harbor volunteer, said that many years ago, women didn’t have sources to talk to about violence.

“And when they were out hanging up their clothes, they’d be talking to their next door neighbors, so that was their way of expressing what’s going on in the house,” she said.

Hope Harbor, a local crisis counseling center for those affected by sexual assault, and the Sexual Assault Awareness Month Committee organized Tuesday’s event.

The event, called The Clothesline Project, is a national initiative that allows people affected by violence against women, including rape and sexual assault, to tell their story by decorating a T-shirt.

Among the messages written on the shirts were: “I will survive with God’s Grace by not letting you win.” “What can you do when even your friends don’t understand ‘no’?” “I never said yes.”

One shirt simply read “survivor.”

The colors of the shirts represented different kinds of abuse, including white shirts for those who did not survive their attacks, and red, pink and orange shirts for survivors of rape and sexual assault, according to the national organization’s website.

The display served as a connection for some who had witnessed cases of violence themselves, such as Radcliff graduate student Rodney Webb.

“I’ve never been abused by my parents or family, but, I mean, I lived in a household watching my mom damn near get beat to death, so you know, coming from that, I can come out here and relate to it, you know, in a certain sense,” Webb said.

A small dress also hung among the shirts, representing young victims, Kingrey-Knapp said.

Yorba Linda, Calif., freshman Samantha McGuigan commented on the physical aspect of the overall display.

“The physical representation of, like, the pain, and the problems that our society has, it’s really powerful,” she said.

Webb felt getting the message out is an important part of what he saw.

“Nowadays, to me, life is all about silence,” he said. “When people go through certain things, they’d rather keep it to themselves. They feel like if they tell somebody that they’re going to get judged or they feel like they’re going to be put in a certain category or get attacked.”

Kingrey-Knapp said even working through the legal system, those affected by violence face suffering in re-telling the details of what has happened to them.

“A perpetrator doesn’t have to prove his innocence,” she said. “But the victim has to prove that they were victimized.”