The project started in 1990 in Massachusetts when a group of women, some of whom had been abused in domestic violence, wanted to fight back with an "'in-your-face' educational and healing tool," according to the Clothesline Project's Web site, www.clotheslineproject-.org.
Rachel Carey-Harper, visual artist of the project was inspired by the AIDS quilt and thought of the concept of using shirts to portray their message. It is called the Clothesline Project not only because the shirts are displayed on a clothesline, but the women remembered that in the old days when women would do their laundry, they would hang their clothes to dry and talk with their neighbor over the clothesline about what was going on in their lives. The Clothesline Project is therefore a way for battered women to come together on common ground and talk about the things that have happened to them.
The women decorate shirts in a way that tells their story of abuse. There are also shirts dedicated to those who have been killed by domestic violence. According to the Web site, the women decorate the shirts to cope with what has happened and to move on.
It is often believed that only women suffer from domestic violence, but children and men suffer from it, too. They also make shirts for themselves. The Clothesline Project also makes shirts for those who have been killed to help their loved ones cope through difficult times.
Safe Passage Inc., in Izard County, as part of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, displayed their own Clothesline Project Oct. 18 at Baker's Pharmacy in Salem. Oct. 17 they displayed the clothesline at Harp's Grocery in Calico Rock. There were over 20 shirts on display.
"Every year thousands of women and children are abused and hundreds are killed in the United States. Only about half of those abused ever report the crime and seek help. We are working to change this," Safe Passage Director Lorri Rorie said. "We want to let people know the real scope of violence and death from domestic abuse. At each of our Clothesline Projects, we (had) volunteers (distribute) information and (answer) questions about how the public can help the victims of domestic violence."
Safe Passage Inc. offers counseling and advocacy for victims of abuse in both Fulton and Izard counties. The organization helps victims in need of medical care, protection orders, shelter, jobs and other services. For more information contact Safe Passage Inc. at 358-3222.