T-shirts for change

Amid a gray and sunless sky Tuesday, USF hosted the Clothesline Project of Tampa Bay. The weather helped intensify the mood that the dozens of T-shirts hanging on the clotheslines evoked. The T-shirts, hung shoulder to shoulder, flapped in the wind as a testimony to the community that violence, especially against women and children, is happening every minute of the day.

The Clothesline Project has evolved into more than 300 projects worldwide and aims to aid the healing process of survivors of violence and people who have lost loved ones due to violence. It also aims to educate and raise awareness on the pervasiveness of violence in society.

Clotheslines were chosen because of the fact that the clothesline was a meeting ground for women in the past. T-shirts were hung from lines to symbolize the airing of “dirty laundry,” according to the project’s Web site, clotheslineproject.com.

Besides the T-shirts, a gong was rung every 14 seconds to signify a woman being battered in the United States. The Clothesline Project of Tampa Bay, with the help of the Feminist Student Alliance (FSA), USF Advocacy Program, the Counseling Center, USF Police Department and Student Health Services, gathered at MLK Plaza to raise awareness and offer support for those effected on a more personal level.

“The original line began in Cape Cod, Mass., in 1990, and there was a woman from St. Pete who was part of the original line, and she brought it down here (to Florida) in 1991. I believe our line (in Tampa Bay) was the first one in Florida, and we’re currently the biggest in the state of Florida,” said Dale Shade, director of the Clothesline Project.

According to the project’s Web site, the organization began “when members of the Cape Cod Women’s Agenda learned that during the Vietnam War years, when 58,000 American military personnel were killed, 51,000 women were killed in the USA by the men who supposedly loved them.”

On a more local level, Dale said, “The goal for me coming to USF was to provide awareness to both male and female populations about violence. We need to break the cycle of violence, and we need to speak out.”

Students and faculty members had the opportunity to talk wit any of the organizations and services involved in the event, and they could also make a T-shirt in honor of someone who has been a victim of abuse.

“I’m glad that there is some kind of awareness, and I hope it impacts the legal system so that restraining orders aren’t just pieces of paper and that human life has more worth when it comes to women and children,” student Leslie Tai Franciscia Bianca Maccicotti-Humphrey said. “Legislature needs to put more money toward protection, and it needs to be a forefront priority. They need to put faces to the people that are survivors and the dead, and stop just putting them into statistics. Statistics are great, but how are you going to put statistics on people that are getting buried in the ground?

“Making this T-shirt today has been more therapeutic than the six years of therapy that I have undergone.”

Working alongside the Clothesline Project of Tampa Bay, the FSA offered another alternative to the T-shirt making in an attempt to reach out to men on campus through the Handprint Project. Members of the alliance walked around and asked men and women to trace their hands and sign their names as a way to pledge that they do not condone violence against women or children. A banner will be hung with the slogan, “These Hands Do Not Harm.”

“The most important point I want people to get from this day is the fact that (victims of abuse) are not alone,” FSA chair Ali Hall said. “I can guarantee every single person on this campus has some connection to someone who has been sexually molested, abused, assaulted or raped. It is a problem on campus, and it needs to be spotlighted.”