Awareness through art

Clothesline Project helps survivors, supporters speak out against sexual assault

A Safe Place invites the community to “air its dirty laundry.”

The Clothesline Project, said Leisl Laurich of A Safe Place, is a way to bring April, which is sexual assault awareness month, to the eyes of the public and get a conversation started on the topic within the community.

“It’s basically a chance for people to ‘air their dirty laundry,’ and speak out against sexual assault, Laurich said. The project will be making shirts available for anyone interested in decorating one. Shirts will be returned to A Safe Place, and displayed at the Warren Public Library and the Warren YMCA, throughout the month of April.

Shirts can be decorated in any way a person wants, said Laurich, “Words and phrases. Pictures. A combination of both. Anything they can think of, and creativity is encouraged.”

Laurich said that any art supplies are fair game to use on the shirts, including paints, markers, glue, and glitter. “The shirts will be displayed indoors,” said Laurich, “so it doesn’t have to hold up to any bad weather.”

It’s important to talk about sexual violence, explained Laurich.

“Keeping the pain of these traumatic experiences locked away inside has a tendency to give the trauma more power over you,” she said. “Bottled up fear and grief can cause the survivor to continually relive the experience, in some cases affecting everyday life and relationships.”

Putting all of that emotional content — the terror grief and pain — into art can “serve as an outlet,” Laurich said. This particular project allows the artist to remain anonymous while still expressing their emotion surrounding the issue. They can “effectively hang their shirt on the clothesline, turn away, and leave it behind them. The physical act of walking away can be powerful, and the collection of artwork as a whole serves as a reminder to all survivors that they are not alone.”

Shirts will be available for pickup at the YMCA and A Safe Place soon, and completed shirts can be returned to either location, Laurich said. Laurich encouraged survivors of sexual violence, as well as significant others, family, friends, and “any caring community member” to participate and “express their thoughts and feelings through artwork.”

“Each piece of clothing created is a silent exhibit, and self-expression of the violence affecting our community,” Laurich said. Everyone is encouraged to “express yourself, share your story, or create a picture.” Shirts will be available by March 5, and submissions must be returned to either A Safe Place, located at 210 North Drive, Suite C, in North Warren, or the Warren YMCA, by April 1.