30 Years of T-Shirts and Raising Awareness: The Clothesline Project

By EMILY SUSSMAN

Photos by Josh Birndorf

This week marks the beginning of The Clothesline Project, a project sponsored by the Student Organization for Sexual Safety (SOSS). The project has a long history, beginning in Maine in 1990. The project has an almost equally long history here since Colorado College began displaying t-shirts nearly 30 years ago, and has been an avid participant since, according to sophomore Julia Russell, co-chair of SOSS.

The Clothesline Project consists of a clothesline of t-shirts strung up across college campuses with personal stories of sexual assault and domestic violence written on the t-shirts.

When asked about the effectiveness of the project, Russell began by explaining the project’s goals of “show[ing] how sexual assault and domestic abuse happens to people on our campus” and creating solidarity among survivors, saying that, “it’s really important to recognize that it isn’t something that is someone else’s problem.” SOSS argues that by having the shirts in a public space, they are achieving the goal of raising awareness.

Having the shirts in a public space, however, also presents the possibility of the shirts becoming triggers for some survivors. Russell acknowledged this as a possibility, but stated that “all of our posters have trigger warnings,” and that it is understandable “if people don’t want to read the shirts, or if they don’t want to hang out around this quad during this week.”

Russell also spoke about the effectiveness of the method of the project. Having something written down instead of speaking is “a way for people to tell their stories without…room to be interrupted.”

The Clothesline Project has been a project of solidarity across the U.S. and has existed at CC for over a decade. While it does pose the possibility of triggering survivors across campus, SOSS will continue to be a part of it. The group feels that the empowerment it provides outweighs the possibility of having a harmful effect.

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