The Clothesline Project came to the Fullerton College Quad on April 9, bringing heartbreaking stories from victims of abuse for Sexual Assault Awareness month.
The Clothesline Project makes its way to different college campuses all around Orange County throughout the month of April. The project puts different colored shirts with different abuse stories written on them on multiple clothesline stretching across the quad.
Dawn Foor, an event coordinator, says the event is more therapeutic than depressing for those who are involved.
“It’s very empowering for [the victims],” Foor said. “You can see a huge chunk of trauma leave them when they hang the shirt.”
Each different colored shirt represents a different type of abuse. The project has multiple colors to be as inclusive as possible to different abusers, such as sexual assault, child abuse, human trafficking and even homicide.
The project comes from Waymakers Sexual Assault Victim Services unit. Waymakers is a non-profit organization with a mission statement that says they are “committed to supporting individuals on their journeys and fostering lasting change and positive impact throughout Orange County,” specifically the Sexual Assault Victim Services unit.
During the event, students walked around the quad to view the different shirts. Many had come with friends so they could discuss the event together, while some came alone to silently contemplate what the project meant.
Foor also mentioned that she has seen a lot more involvement since the emergence of the #MeToo movement. She also explained that another shirt color, black, was added as an effect of the movement.
“We’ve put out more sexual harassment colors because we get more calls for that now,” Foor continued to explain. “People aren’t as afraid anymore..it’s really good for me to see people stepping into the movement.”
Yae Ji Kim was a one of the students walking alone and admitted it was her first time viewing the project. Despite the novelty of the viewing experience, Kim was pleased with it, expressing how happy she was to see how many people were able to write their stories and share them.
Behind Kim, there was a table where victims could write on shirts to put up. There were also event organizers nearby to talk to other students walking around viewing the project. After making a shirt, victims sign a waiver releasing the shirt to the project.
“We do have a waiver because we keep the shirts,” Foor explained. “If someone insists on keeping the shirts, then we’re not going to keep it, but it contributes to the art project.”
Another new viewer, Daisy Yi, also found the event empowering for victims.
It breaks the stigma around not wanting to talk about sexual assault, said Yi, a human services major.
Yi also brought up concerns that the event could be a possible trigger for some people.
“Maybe they could make an area that’s closed off that shows more explicit shirts,’ Yi suggested. “Even though someone did go through it, it’s hard for some people to see. Especially if they went through the same thing and are still hurt by it.”
There were a lot of explicit shirts at the event, as Yi had pointed out. Some included vulgar words or a message to the past abuser. And even more described in detail the abuse the victim went through.
The project is not a stranger to detailed accounts of abuse, according to Foor.
“We went to a charter school in Santa Ana with middle school kids,” Foor remembered. “We did a presentation, and every child made a shirt, they all had trauma. It broke my heart, but it was healing for them.”
Also among shirts that were more sensitive, there are also shirts that have more uplifting messages. Some included stories of the victim’s strength to continue living a normal life, or even messages to other victims who are struggling to come forward with their stories.
The unit had a table in the quad, where students and victims picked up pamphlets with more information on the abuses documented by the project. They also sold bracelets, stickers and enamel pins. All proceeds from the sales went towards the Sexual Assault Victim Services unit
April was named Sexual Assault Awareness month back in 2001 after the National Sexual Violence Resource Center was founded. NSVRC was the result of a decades-long campaign to prevent and bring awareness to sexual assault that was started in the 1970’s.
If you need to talk to someone about abuse, call the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN) hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673).