Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

The Clothesline Project

Augustana students got together on the lower quad to participate in the closing ceremony of the Clothesline Project, a project set up to raise awareness and support survivors of sexual assault on Friday, Oct. 5.
The Clothesline Project originally began in the 1990s, after the revelation that as many women died of domestic violence during the time of the Vietnam War as fighting soldiers did. Augustana’s project was directed by Jessica Nodulman’s WGST-303 Gender and Sexuality class along with Jane Simonsen.
“I think the original attempt was to focus on the number of people who die as a result of gender-based violence. Since then, the project has become about other forms of sexual assault and sexual violence, and relationship abuse as well,’’ says Simonsen.
About the idea behind giving the project the shape of a clothesline, professor Simonsen said, “The idea was that the shirts would send messages and because they are human-shaped, it kind of reminds you of a person rather than a statistic.’’
Senior Kaitlin O’Brien is one of the students who helped in the organization of the Clothesline Project.
“A lot of times, women weren’t able to tell people about it because they didn’t really have any resources available to them. Laundry used to be a woman’s work, and so they would go to the clothesline and meet up with other wives and talk about the violence they were exposed to.
“It is an outlet for survivors to tell stories about their personal assault. Also, it’s to raise awareness, and just supporting survivors and having survivors heal together – or not even survivors. Just showing support and that we’re there for them and [will] advocate for them,” O’Brien said.
The shirts are anonymously decorated with comforting and supporting slogans, but also with confronting quotes about the stigma against speaking out about sexual assault. Around eighty shirts decorated the lower quad this year, all made by current Augustana students. Despite the fact that the shirts have no names attached to them, they serve as a source of support for many students on campus.
Last year, the Clothesline Project was vandalized twice. But this didn’t stop Augustana students from setting up the project again. In order to prevent a similar incident, this year’s project was set up in view of newly installed security cameras.
To give students closure after the Clothesline Project, a closing ceremony was held for the second year. Students gathered, listened to a poem read by senior Carli Schwanebeck, and participated in a moment of silence in remembrance of victims of sexual assault.
“We tried to engage populations that wouldn’t normally be the first ones to jump in line for this sort of thing. So, engaging fraternities, engaging male friends and things like that. Sexual assault is not something that just impacts women, you know,” Schwanebeck said. “In past years, people wouldn’t exactly know what the project was. This year we made it hard to not know what was happening. I think it was good, and I think it will continue to get better next year.’’

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The Clothesline Project