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The Clothesline Project 2012

Yellow t-shirt that says Protect those who can't protect themselves

Students decorate t-shirts to draw attention to sexual assault issues.

The colorful T-shirts hanging from the clothesline have simple messages with bold meanings.

“No one violates my body trust. Respect me for the human being I am.”

“Never hit a woman. That’s somebody’s mother, daughter, sister, friend.”

“Silence does not mean yes. Ask for consent.”

Each of Tidewater Community College’s campuses is participating in The Clothesline Project, which encourages women and men to decorate a t-shirt as a way of bringing attention to victims and survivors of sexual assault. The Women’s Center-sponsored event will continue from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 18th on the Chesapeake Campus and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 24 and 25 on the Virginia Beach Campus.

“These are domestic issues nobody talks about,” said Larissa Sutherland, educational program and outreach coordinator for Samaritan House, a shelter for domestic violence in Virginia Beach.  The YMCA and Help and Emergency Response (H.E.R. shelter), which provides advocacy, support and education for those affected by domestic violence, also sent representatives.

T-shirts on a clothesline outside

The Clothesline Project started in Cape Cod in 1990, and dates back to the idea of laundry traditionally considered women’s work. In tight-knit communities, one of the few places women exchanged information, often in hushed tones, was over backyard fences after hanging clothes to dry.

TCC students supported the project by designing their own domestic violence message on a t-shirt. The color-coded shirts reflect the national campaign that has designated specific colors for the various forms of abuse. White represents women who died because of violence, yellow represents assaulted women, red and pink represent survivors of rape and assault, blue and green represent  survivors of incest and sexual  abuse and purple represents women attacked because of their sexual orientation.

Representatives from TCC's Women's Center at a table

Barbara Martinez, working toward her associate degree in social science, used a marker to write the words “Never Say Never. No means no” on her shirt.

“I tell people to never say never,” she said. “One day it happened to me, and I was 46 years old. I had always said it was never going to happen to me, and I was almost killed.”

Angelia Woodley’s red shirt stated, “Sexual assault ain’t ‘No’ sense in it!!!”

“If someone says no, you say ‘Next,’ ” she said.

A student named Beryl, who kept her last name confidential, worked tenaciously on her shirt for more than half an hour. The yellow shirt with block letters read, “Love is not supposed to hurt” on the front, and “Know your worth” on the back.

Beryl said she had an abusive spouse after rushing into a marriage. “There were nights I fought for my life,” she said.