Oct. 18, 2003 — Victims of domestic violence were able to turn their silent cries into a voice of the empowered through the Clothesline Project on Saturday.
About 20 T-shirts were hung on a clothesline at the Tutu Park Mall on St. Thomas and they carried powerful messages from victims of abuse to their abusers.
"I made this shirt so no one can tell me to be quiet anymore" were the words on a red T-shirt displayed on the clothesline.
White shirts represent victims that have been killed by domestic violence, and red, orange, or pink shirts represent women and children who have been victims of rape, color symbols chosen by the national Clothesline Project. Yellow or beige are for victims of battery and assault and blue or green shirts are for victims of incest. Only white and red shirts were hung at the mall.
"Love doesn't hurt. When it starts to hurt get out. The end result is fatal" was the warning on one of the white t-shirts, which had three colorful hands attached to it.
"He beat me. He raped me but first he married me" was the story told by a red shirt.
While many messages came from women, some came from children, and there were some baby clothes hanging on the line.
One shirt read, "Hitting my mommy, hurts me too."
By breaking the silence, victims of domestic violence take another step toward recovery through the Clothesline Project, said Roseanne Defreitas, outreach coordinator, of the sponsoring V.I. Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council.
"For families and friends of women and children who died, designing a shirt offers a way to express their loss and demonstrate how their lives have been changed by a senseless act of violence," according a domestic violence release. And further: "The clothesline project educates, documents, and raises society's awareness about crimes against women and children."
Though many of the shirts expressed anger and asked questions of their attackers, many looked toward the future in a positive light. "Life can get better" read a shirt. "I think forgiving thoughts. I speak forgiving words" said another shirt.
Pamphlets about information on family violence, rape prevention, women's shelter information, and restraining order information were available to the public.
In an effort to educate children against using their hands to harm, children received a healing balloon filled with helium and signed pledge cards promising not to use their hand to hurt.
This is the third year that the Clothesline Project has been conducted in the territory and has been sponsored by the V.I. Council.
The Clothesline Project originated in Hyannis, Mass., in 1990 with 31 shirts designed by a small group of women to send an educational message about domestic violence and use it as a healing tool. The "simple concept," as expressed on the official Web site, is: "Let each woman tell her own story, in her own unique way, and hang it out for all to see. It was and is a way of airing society's dirty laundry."
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