The Clothesline Project Shatters the Silence

Alison Kuznitz ’15
EE Senior Opinions Editor

“Stand up to domestic violence.” “Beat your goals, Not your family.” “There is no excuse for abuse.” “Stop domestic violence. Have a heart.” These are just a few of the many phrases written on T-shirts that were recently on display in front of the Trumbull Library as well as in the commons at THS.

These T-shirts are a major component of the Clothesline Project, which strives to raise awareness of domestic abuse against women. The Clothesline Project also serves as a tool for self-expression and healing for women who are victims of domestic violence since they are able to personally design T-shirts. In Trumbull, the program is sponsored primarily through the Trumbull Rotary Club and its partnership with THS’ Interact Club. The project was held from October 4th through October 13th.
“Its importance is not to only raise awareness, but we also would like to think that when people read our shirts, they will want to avoid being violent in any way themselves,” stated Interact Club Officer Justin Mejia. “Also, we feel like these shirts bring comfort to anyone who is a victim of domestic violence. We make these shirts to honor victims and survivors of domestic violence.”

As Mejia mentioned, these T-shirts are critical by delivering the vital message of preventing domestic violence and its negative effect towards women. The T-shirts are able to convey this message more effectively than a flyer or other types of projects because the shirts are eye-catching and a visible reminder. Therefore, when a person sees the clothesline hanging in the commons or in front of the library, it is an emotional symbol that is hard to ignore. According to promotional material regarding the Clothesline Project, “The clothesline display is a vehicle for anyone affected by violence to express their emotions by decorating a shirt.”

Although the Clothesline Project is geared towards abusive relationships, THS slightly modified this aspect so it could entail bullying as well. Bullying is potentially more applicable to students, which enables them to have a firmer grasp on the project’s underlying meaning. Not to mention, it coincides perfectly with the fact that October is National Bullying Prevention Month.
The Interact Club has been host to the Clothesline Project for the past six years because they strongly support the way in which it increases awareness. For this year in particular, it held slightly more significance because it occurred during the NEASC visit. This project directly benefits the Center for Women and Families of Eastern Fairfield. According to Interact Club advisor Mrs. Cranston, the club also chose the project in order to work closely with the Trumbull Rotary Club.

“We thought it served two purposes. We felt it was important for visiting members of other school districts to see that Trumbull High does support community-based projects. And the other is just heightening awareness,” remarked Mrs. Cranston. “Domestic violence is certainly something that can impact a student greatly. It is kind of two-fold.” In addition to the T-shirts, the Clothesline Project held a vigil to supplement the knowledge the public is able to gain. The vigil at the library on October 9th proved to be very successful in delivering its key messages. There were a myriad of speakers that touched upon violence and bullying, including THS Peer Mediators, First Selectman Timothy Herbst, and Debra Greenwood, President of the Center for Women and Families of Eastern Fairfield.

THS student and Peer Mediator Chiaki Santiago was amongst the guest speakers at the vigil. She spoke about the process of Peer Mediation and how students are able to compromise on issues such as bullying and arguing. She was very moved by the overall experience and the emotional climate that comprised the vigil.

“It was very sad hearing the names of the people that died in cases of domestic violence but at the same time, you could tell that everyone was aware and very attentive to everything that was being said,” said Santiago.
The Clothesline Project did not originate in Trumbull, but was actually started in Cape Cod in 1990. Today, the project has grown rapidly with an estimated 500 projects nationally and internationally. Additionally, there are roughly 41 states that participate in the project along with five countries. This staggering number includes about 50,000 to 60,000 T-shirts, as reported by theclotheslineproject.org.

The Clothesline Project is continuing to expand and improve year by year. This certainly holds true for the project held at THS. For instance, Mrs. Cranston hopes to invite representatives from the Center for Women and Families of Eastern Fairfield next year to sit through the lunch waves. These representatives would have the opportunity to answer questions and share their traumatic, yet inspiring stories with students.

The Clothesline Project is a truly motivating initiative. Hopefully, everyone in Trumbull was able to view the clotheslines either in the commons or in front of the library and appreciate their powerful mission of preventing domestic abuse against women.

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