At the event, students and staff gathered at the UH Hilo Campus Center Plaza to paint t-shirts with meaningful messages in support of domestic violence victims and survivors.
As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s Women’s Center held its annual Clothesline Project event on October 17, 2018. At the event, students and staff gathered at the UH Hilo Campus Center Plaza to paint t-shirts with meaningful messages in support of domestic violence victims and survivors.
The Clothesline Project originated in 1990 in Hyannis, Massachusetts, created with the intent to educate people about domestic violence as well as serve as an outlet and healing aid for survivors, through painting t-shirts with powerful messages.
Decades later, Clothesline Projects across the country still serves to support the men and women who suffer from domestic violence. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner.
“The Clothesline Project is an awareness event to highlight domestic violence and the support for survivors we have as a community, specifically the UH Hilo community,” says Destiny Rodriguez, interim director of the Women’s Center and the LGBTQ+ Center.
The UH Hilo’s Women’s Center has been hosting the event since 2015, showing continuous support for the cause.
“UH Hilo is committed, we want to end domestic violence, we want to show students that we support them, staff and faculty as well, and to show that the community also supports these events,” explains Rodriguez.
At the event, art supplies and t-shirts were provided for students to paint slogans or sayings in honor of victims and survivors. The t-shirts were then pinned up along one side of the plaza.
“We typically like to leave up the t-shirts for a couple of days in the plaza so that students can see the positive messaging and the support that we have for one another and to show that you’re not alone, your voice is important, and we are here to assist in any way possible,” says Rodriguez.
The t-shirts are painted with the intent of showing the realities of domestic abuse and to give hope to those suffering from it.
“Sometimes people paint little anecdotes about their own lives or about the lives of people that they know, sometimes they paint positivity phrases,” says Shay Lewis, a student volunteer at the Women’s Center where she formerly served as program coordinator.
Oftentimes, victims of domestic violence find it difficult to reach out for help or are fearful of speaking out on their situation. The Clothesline Project recognizes those factors and provides a way to show victims that they are not alone and that they have advocates on campus that they can talk to about their struggles.
“It’s good and very pertinent to have these kinds of events because it really does draw those people out that otherwise wouldn’t necessarily go out seeking those resources,” says Lewis. “The resources are put out right in front of them and it’s there for them to engage with. When people walk by, maybe they see themselves, maybe they see a loved one. It’s all about giving people a platform to talk about these issues in a public setting.”
Nate Myers, program coordinator at the LGBTQ+ Center and student at UH Hilo, also participated in the Clothesline Project to show support for the cause.
“My mother was a really big victim of domestic violence,” shares Myers. “What the Clothesline Project means to me is supporting my mother in a way, I’m telling her thank god you got out of that and you stood up to your abuser because a lot of times, victims don’t.”
Myers painted a shirt with the message, “She only hit me once,” in support of people in the LGBTQ+ community suffering from domestic violence as well as men who are abused by their female partners, to bring awareness to their stories.
“Once is enough, once is too much,” says Myers.
Through the painted messages, the UH Hilo Clothesline Project speaks up for domestic violence survivors and victims and shares their stories to bring hope and recognition to their struggles.
“The Clothesline Project is basically our voices, because for a long time being abused was the norm,” says Myers.
About the author of this story: Alyssa Mathews is a freshman at UH Hilo planning to major in business with a marketing concentration. She graduated from Waiakea High School and is a UH Hilo Chancellor’s Scholar.
About the photographer: Raiatea Arcuri is a professional photographer majoring in business at UH Hilo. He was awarded USA Young Landscape Photographer of the Year 2016 (read his blog post about the winning photograph).