Lone Star College-CyFair’s Clothesline Project was a recent visual effort to help break the silence and raise awareness of the prevalence of domestic violence, while giving victims a voice in sharing their personal story.
Most people associate October with Breast Cancer Awareness, but LSC-CyFair students in the Criminal Justice (CJ) Club teamed up with other student organizations, including Psychology Club, Sociology Club, CRU, Creative Writing Club and Black Student Union, and the Counseling Department to help spread the word that it is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Hanging outside the college’s Learning Commons were more than 100 t-shirts featuring different colors representing different victims of violence.
Yellow represented survivors of domestic violence and other physical assaults; white: individuals who died as result of violent acts; purple: individuals attacked due to (perceived) sexual orientation; red/orange: survivors of rape or sexual assault; blue/green: survivors of incest or childhood sexual abuse and black: individuals who became disabled as a result of an attack or for those attacked because of a disability.
Katie Porter-Waldrip, CJ Club’s historian/social media manager, talked to some of the girls who were painting shirts displayed on the clothesline.
“They were victims of rape and said the shirts were a representation of how they felt as an individual and gave them the chance to tell their story,” said Porter-Waldrip. “They felt like their voice was being heard.”
Sydney Thames, the CJ Club’s treasurer, along with Bioleta Vasquez Reyes, CJ Club secretary, also took shirts to the Houston Area Women’s Center and Fort Bend County Women’s Center so women could decorate their own shirts expressing their stories about domestic violence.
“This project helped a lot of victims know you have someone to talk to so you don’t bottle it up,” said Reyes.
In addition to the clothesline display, CJ Club Advisor Jennifer Bourgeois provided her criminal law class the opportunity to participate for service learning credit. Divided into six groups, students had to create a plan of action to raise awareness about domestic violence. Displayed with the clothesline were projects on topics such as stereotypes and domestic violence and psychology of domestic violence, which included Maya Angelou’s birdcage and information regarding Stockholm Syndrome. Other student projects consisted of United States vs national statistics regarding domestic violence, high profiled celebrity cases involving domestic violence, and one group’s projected focused specifically toward resources available to victims.
“This was a great bonding experience for all involved and a meaningful event that raised more awareness not only among the student population but employees as well,” said Bourgeois.
The month was created to make students aware not only how common domestic violence is, but also the high incidence of sexual violence on college campuses, said Angelica Sutton, LSC-CyFair counselor Females between the ages of 16-24 have a three times higher rate of being assaulted in comparison to other women.
“In counseling, our involvement with students seeking help to leave an abusive partner has made us more aware of how prevalent this problem is,” she said. “Through awareness and information, we hope more females will have the courage to report and get out of harmful relationships.”
However, Kenneth Henry III, president of the CJ Club, wanted everyone to know domestic and sexual violence impacts women, children and men as well.
“From a male standpoint, you really don't think about it because stereotypically it doesn't happen to males," he said. "From reading information from the National Coalition of Violence, I learned that 4 in 10 men have faced some type of coercion control by an intimate partner."
In addition to the Clothesline Project, the month’s activities included information tables, a film “Violence and Solutions – A Path Appears” presentation and discussion, a Houston Area Women’s Center counselor talk and donation drive for HAWC victims and a panel discussion with law enforcement and other experts.