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Every April, rainbow strands of T-shirts designed for the Auraria Clothesline Project for Sexual Assault Awareness Month reach a little further.
The Phoenix Center at Auraria, along with other UCD campus sponsors has organized a local extension of the national Clothesline Project, which began in Cape Cod, Mass. 22 years ago.
The T-shirts hang in three locations of Tivoli and are a growing collection of shirts from all three years the project has existed at Auraria.
“The first year we did it, we only had enough to hang a couple of strings across the atrium, and then last year, we had enough to expand in that Student Life spiral staircase, then this year we had enough to expand into the tavern,” Lisa Ingarfield, associate director of The Phoenix Center at Auraria said.
“Each year it grows. The more T-shirts we have, the more we will expand. It’s possible in the next couple of years that we might move outside of the Tivoli.”
The T-shirts are color coded for the types of sexual crimes that students have experienced either themselves or through their friends or family. The idea is to personalize each piece to reflect a testimony of pain or hope that Auraria students have felt in interpersonal violence. All Auraria students are encouraged to participate.
“When you see those T-shirts presented in front of you, and you see the stories or the phrases or the pictures that have been drawn by people who have been impacted by this, there’s a power in that,” Ingarfield said. “It brings it home. Here on this campus, there are hundreds of survivors of these types of violent acts.”
The piece itself is a visual impact to students. When they read closer, the impact grows immensely. One shirt in the Atrium reads, “building a better world,” and one directly across from it said, “49 people died last year of domestic violence — my best friend was one of them.” There are also a large percentage of white shirts, which serve as a memorial for women who were killed by interpersonal violence.
“It’s powerful,” Metro student Ryan Kling said. “It works because it catches your eye, but then you realize what the message is and how deep the message goes — it kind of all works together.”
According to clotheslineproject.org, “58,000 soldiers died in the Vietnam war. During that same period of time, 51,000 women were killed mostly by men who supposedly loved them.” It was this statistic that began the now national project in the summer of 1990.
The purpose was to develop a program that educates, enlightens and fights sexual violence against women.
“All of the individuals who are involved with putting this on are hoping that the students and faculty that see this will recognize the perverseness of interpersonal violence in our society,” Ingarfield said. “This isn’t something that happens randomly, it happens every day and it happens to people who we know and love.”