The Clothesline Project: Displaying the Voices of Survivors

By Abby Williams

Cotton T-shirts pinned to clotheslines stretch around the
perimeter of the Worner Quad. Written on each one of the
shirts is a story of gender-based violence, narratives that
include sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking.
The shirts, hanging solemnly amid the student center
commotion, are a reminder of the occurrence of sexual violence
on campus and are a platform for survivors and allies
to share their experiences.

The installation is the product of The Clothesline Project,
directed by The Student Organization for Sexual Safety
(SOSS) at Colorado College. From Sept. 20 to Sept. 27,
SOSS members tabled in Worner center with blank T-shirts
and pens for CC community members to share their stories.
These shirts, and shirts collected over the past thirty years,
were put on display; they will stay in the quad until Oct. 4.
This installation is one of the ways SOSS acts to address the
issue of sexual violence within the culture of CC.

“It’s a way to create a physical space for survivor’s voices to
be heard,” Lily Epstein ‘22 said. “It can make some people
uncomfortable, but at the end of the day, it’s crucial to make
space for survivors. There are years of survivors and people
close to survivors sharing stories that reach a really large
group of people.”

According to The Independent, Colorado has the third highest sexual assault rate in the country.
And at CC, 58 out of every 100 female students
experience sexual assault and 63% of survivors
experience multiple assaults (HEDS National
Campus Climate Survey). The stories on
display voiced by our peers share the proximal
and deeply personal nature of these statistics.
The shirts hanging in front of Worner Center,
the hub of student life, demand attention for
these survivor narratives which are often diminished
and obscured.

The Clothesline project began in Hyannis,
Mass. in 1990 and has since been adapted
to college campuses world-wide. The first
clothesline installation at CC was constructed
thirty years ago and has been revived every
year since, demonstrating the continued need
to center survivor voices.

When Colorado College releases its annual
report on gender-based violence, perhaps the
CC Clothesline Project will remind us that each
one of these statistics is personal and the voice
behind it should be heard and prioritized.

SOSS is a student coalition of passionate allies,
survivors, and advocates who are dedicated
to creating a healthy and safe sexual climate,
as well as shifting the culture on Colorado College’s
campus towards ending sexual violence.
They tackle issues through varied and intersectional
lenses such as rape culture, sexual assault,
rape, intimate partner violence, and
other forms of abuse and trauma, while also
celebrating and promoting healthy, pleasurable,
and consensual intimate experiences.
SOSS provides students with a platform to
question and understand the intricacies of
these issues and the ways in which they influence
our community (SOSS Student Organization
Statement).

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