Clothesline Project resonates with IUN students

2013-10-18T18:00:00Z 2013-10-21T16:45:14Z Clothesline Project resonates with IUN studentsSusan Brown susan.brown@nwi.com, (219) 662-5325 nwitimes.com
October 18, 2013 6:00 pm  • 

GARY | Of the 83 T-shirts strung around the Moraine Student Center at Indiana University Northwest, one spoke especially loudly to Matt Bartolomei, a 25-year-old sociology major from Schererville.

Its message covered a lot right there, he said.

"Love is not physical abuse, mental abuse, being controlled, being raped, being molested, being cheated on," the message read.

"I think this is truly remarkable," Bartolomei said. "It's really great students can see what is going on here. We really have a problem, and something needs to be done about it. This is a great step forward."

The shirts on display at IUN were created by students, faculty and staff, some of whom are victims and survivors of abuse and violence.

Another student, not named because she was a victim of sexual assault, stood silent and somber as she observed the display.

The woman said she did not create a shirt but could have.

"I was date-raped," she said. "It had a big effect on me. I still deal with it though it was 20 years ago."

The woman also continues to deal with having been molested by a stepfather and her mother not believing her, she said.

But she was grateful for still being alive.

"I can't believe how many (white) T-shirts are actually here," she said. "That person died." 

The shirts are color-coded: white for those killed; yellow for victims of domestic battery and assault; red, pink and orange for those raped; blue and green for victims of incest and child abuse; purple for those victimized for the sexual orientation; and black for anyone attacked for their political beliefs.

The Clothesline Project, now a national and international event, had its genesis in October 1990 with 31 shirts displayed on a village green in Hyannis, Mass.

Through telling their own stories in an art form, victims and survivors of domestic violence give voice to experiences once shrouded in silence.

The exhibit was spearheaded by Tanice Foltz, IUN sociology professor and director of Women's and Gender Studies.

Foltz had sponsored or co-sponsored the observance with colleagues for several years until the last couple of years, she said.

The project was revived this fall in the wake of a student research conference Foltz found jarring.

"We found about two-thirds of the presentations were on violence experienced by our students," she said.

While on sabbatical, Foltz had time to reflect on the outpouring, she said. Foltz then decided to tackle the problem head-on by reviving the Clothesline Project and undertaking a victimization study of the whole campus with colleague Monica Solinas-Saunders and two students.

Foltz's students have been receptive to the exhibit, encouraging it to be repeated.

"This happens to people around us," student Lauren Marxer told Foltz. "It's not far off in another part of the country. It's people that we surround ourselves with in class every day and sit next to, and you just don't know their story. It puts everything in perspective."

The Rev. Jesse Johnson, an IUN communications major and local radio host, participated in the project by creating a shirt in red.

"Sometimes red means anger, and some people don't know how to express their anger in a positive way," Johnson said. "This was a great way to get out the words they might not be able to express in public but can express in a different art form."

The exhibit continues through Oct. 25.

* This story has been updated to clarify IUN will not host a separate domestic violence awareness program at 1 p.m. Oct. 25 as announced but at a later date. The Caring Place will present a program from 3 to 4 p.m. Nov. 4 in the Robin R. Hass Birky Women's Center, located in Room 207 of the Savannah Center, 33rd Avenue and Broadway in Gary. 

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