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The Clothesline Project at McLaren Bay Region

Published on Thursday, October 18, 2018

In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, The Bay Area Women’s Center will be featuring its Clothesline Project at McLaren Bay Region on October 25 from 10am until 2pm in the main lobby.

The project consists of approximately 500 t-shirts, each telling its own story, designed by survivors of domestic and sexual violence from Bay and Arenac counties. Bay Area Women’s Center will display about 35 of these very moving t-shirts in the hospital, and representatives will be available to answer questions.

The Clothesline Project is a visual display that bears witness to domestic violence and sexual assault. Each shirt is decorated to represent a particular person’s experience, by the survivor him/herself or by someone who cares about the survivor. The hope is that this project may help some in the healing process, raise awareness of the prevalence of domestic and sexual violence, and communicate to survivors suffering in silence that they are not alone.

History of the Clothesline Project

In 1990, visual artist Rachel Carey-Harper, inspired by the AIDS quilt, presented the concept of using shirts hanging on a clothesline as a way to raise consciousness. Since doing the laundry was always considered women's work and women often exchanged information over backyard fences while hanging their clothes out to dry, the concept of the clothesline became the vehicle. Each year thousands of women now tell their stories of survival—and commemorate victims who died from domestic violence—by using words and/or artwork to decorate a t-shirt to be exhibited on a clothesline. The project serves as a model for how art helps both women and children develop a sense of hope, possibility, and safety.

How it Helps

“It basically breaks the silence so that other survivors know that they’re not alone,” said Tracey Rainey, Director of Crisis Services from Bay Area Women’s Center. “Making a t-shirt as a testament of domestic violence can be more than a symbolic act. The hope is that this will be a healing experience for someone who has survived a violent relationship. Victims can feel so isolated and ashamed—so to break that silence can be very healing.”

One survivor stated: "It is a feeling of liberation and relief, mixed with pain, self-doubt and betrayal. But most importantly, I feel growth and a sense of accomplishment that I can look back on these two times in my life and see darkness, but also a light around them ... making the shirts re-enforces those feelings of growth."