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Clothesline Project brings the trauma of domestic abuse to the forefront



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Megan Kennedy Dugan joined Chief Don Sullivan and Officer Andrew Williamson of the Alexandria Police Department as they viewed the Clothesline Project last Thursday. Each shirt hung on the Plymouth Town Common that day carried a message about domestic and sexual violence from local victims, survivors and their families. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
October 17, 2012
PLYMOUTH — Nearly 200 tee shirts billowed in the breeze on Plymouth Common during this year's Clothesline Project last Thursday, serving to demonstrate the prevalence of domestic and sexual violence in the 18 towns served by Voices Against Violence and AmeriCorps.

The shirts, designed by women, children and even men who have experienced such violence, each told a story. Some were a tale of sorrow, some were angry, yet many showed strength in their message.

"You will not crush our dreams," proclaimed one t-shirt with a red barn on the front, while another declared "After 46 years I can say I AM."

Megan Kennedy Dugan of Voices Against Violence said the display was put together through a collaborative effort of volunteers from her agency, AmeriCorps, and students from Plymouth State University, and was part of a statewide Clothesline Project.

"People were able to design a shirt and send it to us to hang here on the Common. We wanted to let everyone know this is happening to a lot of people right here in our own communities," said Dugan.

Kelsey Robillard of PSU's Psi Beta Gamma sorority was one of the volunteers on hand to pass out purple ribbons for October's Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and provide information on the sensitive topic.

"It's been interesting to see the demographics of the people who are coming through to look at the shirts, just how many men and how many women," she said.

Among those reading the numerous messages of victims, survivors or their families were Alexandria Police Chief Don Sullivan and Officer Andrew Williamson. Sullivan said his department, like others in the region, works closely with VAV, and he made the trip to Plymouth to experience the impact of domestic violence in the area from the victims' perspectives.

"Sadly, we see a lot of this type of violence. It's one of the top crimes in our town," Sullivan said. "As police officers, we recognize how valuable these crisis centers, like Voice Against Violence, really are, so we wanted to come to the display."

What really hit home for him and Williamson, he said, was the knowledge that some of the shirts were most likely from calls for help they have responded to over the years.

The damage done by domestic violence, both physical and psychological, is no stranger to children either, and several shirts strung along the massive clothesline brought their messages to the forefront as well.

"No means No Daddy and This Means You" and "My first memory is of Mom crying because you beat her. I was 3. Nice memory" were just a few of the heart wrenching words on the small cotton tee shirts.

Kaitlin (last name withheld) of the AmeriCorps Victims Assistance Program was the event organizer, and said the Clothesline Project has proven to be a good way for victims to express themselves anonymously.

"Domestic and sexual violence are such sensitive topics that many people don't want to speak out in public, yet they want their voices to be heard. The Clothesline Project lets them do that," she said.

Later in the evening, a candlelight vigil on the Town Common drew people from all over, who stood up to show support for those who have been victimized by domestic and sexual violence.

A second Clothesline Project has been scheduled for Oct. 20, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., on the Warren Town Common. The public is invited to come read the messages and learn more about both the problem of domestic violence and the resources available for those who have been victimized. More information on Voices Against Violence and other upcoming events during October can be found at www.voicesagainstviolence.net.

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