On the blurred line: Clothesline Project brings awareness to domestic violence

Erin Melrose

UMKC’s Women’s Center kicked off Domestic Violence Awareness month on Oct. 1 with the annual Clothesline Project.  Women  joined together in the Student Union to creatively decorate T-shirts,  which were then pinned to a clothesline and hung as homage to victims of domestic and sexual violence.

The Women’s Center aims to be a constant testimonial to raise awareness for victims of violence and abuse.  Kate Birkenfeld, graduate assistant of programming for the center, helped to spearhead the Clothesline Project, as well as other Women’s Center events on campus.

            “Programming events and activities around gender equality and violence prevention is in my job description,” Birkenfeld said.

Though October focuses on this particular cause, the Women’s Center brings attention to other issues by planning events and ways to get involved.

            “Coming up this November, we will be holding auditions for The Vagina Monologues, a great empowering experience,” Birkenfeld said.

A popular favorite from years past, this event literally gives a voice to “the angry vagina.”

Drawing roots from Cape Cod, Mass., the Clothesline Project has been promoting female empowerment for more than 10 years.

According to the Clothesline Project’s website, there are 500 projects nationally and internationally, with an estimated 50,000- 60,000 T-shirts created so far.

“Creating a shirt is a ‘healing through the arts’ experience. It allows individuals to express their thoughts and emotions about personal experiences in a venue that will be seen by others in the campus community,” Birkenfeld said.

A large concern relating to assault is a sometimes blurred definition of what can be considered assault.  Victims oftentimes feel that because there was no physical harm, the issue is not credible enough to report.  In cases when a familiar person commits sexual assault, the victim may justify the situation by thinking the assault is less valid. The Women’s Center raises awareness with the hope that women have a place to seek clarification despite unnecessary grey areas of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

            “Anyone who walks through our campus participates and bears witness to the visual display of advocacy for violence prevention,” Birkenfeld said.

For more information about the Women’s Center, go here: www.umkc.edu/womenc