T-shirts spread awareness of violence against women

By Josette Keelor

Speaking about sexual assault or domestic violence isn’t easy, even for those who have reported their experiences and sought help.

For every woman who has reported a sexual assault, there are many more victims who haven’t, said Leslie Hardesty, coordinator of the Sexual Assault Program at The Laurel Center in Winchester.

In anticipation of national sexual assault prevention events happening around the country on Thursday, The Clothesline Project in Warren County will give survivors and the loved ones of victims the opportunity to express what words so often cannot.

The T-shirt decorating event, for everyone who is or knows a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence, will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Warren County Government Center, 220 N. Commerce Ave., Front Royal.

At The Laurel Center, there are “well over 100 shirts” from last year’s Winchester event, Hardesty said.

Every year The Laurel Center organizes an event through The Clothesline Project on RAINN Day — an effort that takes place on the last Thursday of September through the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

This year’s event in Warren County is meant to encourage awareness and prevention of sexual assault and domestic violence as well as educate on the United Way of Front Royal’s Phoenix Project, which formed after the closure of Harmony Place, a shelter for victims of domestic violence in Front Royal.

“They’re working on, you know, trying to grow the program again from the ground up,” Hardesty said.

“[It’s] a good place to start to educate the community,” she said, “that we are here and providing services.”

The Clothesline Project started in the summer of 1990 after a coalition of women’s groups in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, realized through the Men’s Rape Prevention Project in Washington, D.C., the staggering number of women affected by violence. According to its website at http://www.clotheslingproject.org, during the almost 20-year Vietnam War, 51,000 women died from domestic violence — nearly as many soldiers (58,000) who died fighting in the war. Moved by the power of The NAMES Project Foundation’s AIDS Memorial Quilt, a member of that coalition suggested the idea of using shirts hanging on a clothesline as a vehicle to raise awareness about the issue.

T-shirts through the effort are color-coded to indicate the type of abuse a survivor has experienced: white for women who died because of violence; yellow or beige for those battered or assaulted; red, pink and orange for survivors of rape and sexual assault; blue and green to represent survivors of incest and sexual abuse; purple or lavender for women attacked because of their sexual orientation; and black for those attacked for political reasons.

Afterward, the T-shirts will be on display at Samuels Public Library, 330 E. Criser Road, Front Royal, through October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. At 7 p.m. Oct. 16, The Laurel Center plans to hold a candlelight vigil on the back steps of the Frederick-Winchester Joint Judicial Center, 135 N. Cameron St., Winchester, and an Empty Bowl Soup Supper and Silent Auction from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7 at Fellowship Bible Church, 3217 Middle Road, Winchester.

Most of the awareness efforts Hardesty plans are in Winchester, but she said she hopes to make The Clothesline Project in Warren an annual event.

“Our goal is really to get people there to make T-shirts so we can start educating people that we are there and providing services,” she said. “So that we can talk to them about our services and, you know, just educating the community as a whole.”

For information on other upcoming projects, call The Laurel Center at 540-667-6160 or The Phoenix Project at 540-313-6012. The emergency hotline for The Phoenix Project is 540-635-2300 and for The Laurel Center is 540-667-6466.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com