by HALEY BURNSIDE, Senior Writer
The Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center collaborated with the Multicultural Center to create an emotional display on the quadrangle this past Wednesday, April 3. The event, known as the Clothesline Project, was the result of the efforts of Jo-Ann Mullooly and Hannah Rome, who worked with a number of student volunteers to bring awareness to issues of violence in society through art.
One of the student organizers, Samantha Monfils, explained the concept of the event and the artwork displayed.
“The Clothesline Project is a visual display dedicated to raising awareness about the reality of violence in our society. It is composed of t-shirts created by survivors of violence, or in honor of someone who has experienced violence,” said Monfils. “Each t-shirt reflects the personal experience of its survivor, and the color of each shirt also represents a different kind of violence.”
The white shirts represented people who have died due to violence, while the yellow shirts represented battered or assaulted victims. The red shirts represented survivors of rape or sexual assault, and the blue shirts represented survivors of incest or child sexual assault. Finally, the purple shirts represented people attacked because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
The artists then inked messages onto the shirts. Some featured poems or inspiring quotes, while others recounted personal stories or experiences of violence. The artists were given total control over their respective shirts, so there were several that included swear words or graphic explanations of experiences. The names of the artists were not displayed in order to protect the privacy of the survivors.
Jo-Ann Mullooly, one of the key organizers of the project, was careful to ensure that the event was handled with the utmost care toward the survivors and their stories.
“We opened up the Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center last week every day for long hours, and invited students to share their stories with us,” said Mullooly. “We instructed them that information would be provided ahead of time, like that names would not be collected at the door, students would be staffing the center well into the evening as volunteers, and that each shirt color represented a different type of violence. Twenty-eight students were so brave to share their stories of intimate partner violence. Twenty-eight students trusted us with their stories. And of course, I know that there are more students who’ve experienced this out there. I knew we needed to go on with the project to honor their stories, no matter if was going to be an uncomfortable sight to see for some.”
The display of shirts was strung up on the quad following Accepted Students Day. The wind blew strong, making the shirts flap like flags. This drew attention to the clotheslines, and several passerby walking through the quadrangle stopped to read the messages on some of the shirts, including accepted students and their families. Behind the display, a table was set up with informative brochures, flyers and literature on violence and sexual assault, as well as ways to take action against them.
Mullooly was confident that setting the display up during this busy day will help spread the mission of the overall project to a larger audience.
“We chose to do it on Accepted Students Day for a few reasons. The main reason was because it fell on the same day as Take Back the Night, a night with the mission of ending sexual, relationship and domestic violence of all kinds,” said Mullooly. “Secondarily, we believe it is extremely important for incoming students and families to know that this campus is taking a stand against the nation-wide campus epidemic. It showed student activism. It showed we care. Sexual assault and harassment is not a Manhattan College problem, it’s a worldwide epidemic. Anyone who missed that point has not been paying attention.”
The organizers and volunteers were hopeful about the impact the project could have on the Manhattan College community. One of the student volunteers, Evaniz Orellana, is hopeful that this event will inspire more awareness and sympathy among the community moving forward.
“When individuals see that it does affect their community to a great extent, then they will be more sympathetic towards the situation. I hope that this inspires individuals on campus to help individuals who suffer from violence, encourages them to take a stand for those who they have never met, and to be kind to all people that they encounter as everyone has a story,” said Orellana.
Senior communication major Lauren Alexander was hoping that the students would not be the only ones affected by the exhibit.
“I am more interested to see the impact this may have on faculty. From my own personal experience and what i have heard from other women, Manhattan College does not have a very sound policy when it comes to dealing with issues of sexual violence and harassment on campus so I hope the project will be a wake up call to faculty,” said Alexander.
The project had personal meanings to the individuals who participated and helped organize it.
Monfils chose to get involved in the project after she saw a version of it back in high school. The experience stuck with her throughout her years at MC, so she was excited to participate when she heard that the Clothesline Project was coming to campus. After personally witnessing the impact of the project, Monfils is eager to help others have a similar journey.
“When I first saw this project seven years ago, I was so taken back by the amount of t-shirts hanging all over my high school campus, and each one had a horrifying story of violence. It really put into perspective for me that these violence statistics are more than just numbers. Each one is, or was, a human being,” said Monfils.
Orellana had not heard of the project prior to college, but she knew she had to get involved when it was announced as an event on campus. She knew that it would provide an opportunity to discuss the trauma that follows violence in an open and honest way.
“I chose to get involved with the project as I have many loved ones who have been forced to endure violence and cope with their trauma in silence. I wanted to raise awareness on the importance of the Clothesline Project to show that oppressive barriers are not obstacles that are easy to overcome, rather individuals are fighting every day to survive,” said Orellana.