Clothesline Project Tells Stories of Survivors of Domestic Violence

Clothesline Project Tells Stories of Survivors of Domestic Violence

The Clothesline Project is on display at the White Mountain Mall. SweetwaterNow photos by Olivia Kennah

SWEETWATER COUNTY — According to the YWCA of Sweetwater County, one in three women and one in four men in the United States have experienced some form of domestic violence by an intimate partner.

At a local level the YWCA Center for Families and Children (CFC) served 427 clients in 2021, had almost 3,000 shelter nights, and helped serve 205 protection orders, according to Kayla Mannikko, YWCA Development Director. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the YWCA of Sweetwater County is working to show the community how prevalent domestic violence is in our own community, and to help share the stories of survivors of domestic abuse.

One of the ways they are working to spread awareness is through the Clothesline Project, which is on display at the White Mountain Mall in Rock Springs.

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“For the last three to four years we have been displaying it at White Mountain Mall because it allowed people the time to spend with these survivors,” Melinda Baas, YWCA of Sweetwater County Executive Director said. “The original project began in Massachusetts as a visual display of shirts with direct messages from women who were survivors of violence.”

Those who visit the Clothesline Project display will find clotheslines hung with shirts that are decorated by local survivors, or a loved one, to represent their personal experience with domestic violence.

Sweetwater County has been participating in the Clothesline Project since 1994, just four years after the project’s inception.

“A volunteer, Holly Johnson, took on the Sweetwater County project and created the first display, held in the Green River Museum,” Baas said. “We have tried to put out the display every year since that time. The location varies and the project has grown as new shirts are, unfortunately, added each year.”

Impact of the Project

Baas explained that survivors of abuse design the shirts for many reasons, including to raise awareness and to aid in their healing process.

“The purpose of the project is to increase awareness of the impact of violence against women and children, to celebrate a woman’s strength to survive and to provide another avenue for her to courageously break the silence,” she said. “For some survivors this will offer an opportunity for healing and to know they are not alone. We also hope the power of the display will affect and move people to better understand the impact of violence in our community.”

Baas said that there are color schemes attached to the shirts that viewers of the display should take note of. A white shirt represents those who died because of violence. Yellow and beige shirts represent battered or assaulted women. Red, pink and orange shirts are designed by survivors of sexual assault. Blue and green shirts represent survivors of incest or sexual abuse. Lastly, purple shirts represent people who were attacked due to their sexual orientation.

She added that there are also several silhouettes on display with the Clothesline Project.

“They are life-size displays of women who were killed by an intimate partner and are part of our Silent Witness Project,” she said.

The Silent Witness Memorial will take place October 20 at Western Wyoming Community College from 6-8 p.m. This memorial and vigil is done in remembrance of adults and children who were murdered in Wyoming as a result of domestic violence.

For anyone in Sweetwater County who is a survivor of abuse is welcome to contact YWCA to make a shirt to include in the Clothesline Project display. This can be a safe and private way for a survivor to share their experience.

“It is open to male or female survivors although, we know, that more victims of domestic violence are women,” Baas said. “No information about a survivor is shared with the public as this protects their privacy while still allowing them to speak out about the violence.”