The Clothesline Project raises violence awareness at Ramapo

The Office of Violence Prevention (OVP) and Northern New Jersey YMCA healingSPACE brought the Clothesline Project to Ramapo last week for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

The Clothesline Project is a non-governmental organization that was created in the ‘90s to bring awareness to the issue of violence against women, men and children.

Shirts of multiple colors and designs are displayed to bring a visual element to the devastating statistics. Yellow depicts a survivor of physical assault or domestic violence, purple represents someone who was attacked because of their sexual orientation and white is used for someone who died because of violence. Other colors include red, pink, orange, blue, green, brown, gray and black.

Assistant Director for the Center for Student Involvement & Coordinator of the Office of Violence Prevention Marie-Danielle Attis said that the project brings “awareness to sexual violence, but [also] from the perspective of those who want to support survivors.”

In the Grove, t-shirts hung from a clothesline with various drawings and phrases. One read, “I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become!” Nearby, students wrote, “You are heard,” and another featured numerous handprints all over. 

“That shows you the perspective of a bystander, someone who wasn’t a victim of sexual violence who was trying to support survivors, and then you’ll see some t-shirts that survivors themselves created,” Attis said.

Upon entering the specific part of the Grove, students were greeted by the OVP’s Student Office Manager Sam Viola, Student Outreach Coordinator Lidiya Kelyman and intern Katherine Andino. The three were handing out Rita’s Italian Ice to students who came by.

At another table, there were white t-shirts on which students could write messages or draw pictures in support of sexual violence survivors. 

“I was drawn to this event because of the fact that we are really talking about topics that are not always encouraged to talk about,” senior Olivia Miller said. “I think that there’s a very cool component to the fact that we’re on a college campus and people are acknowledging things that happen unfortunately a lot.”

Dana Carter, the prevention education coordinator for healingSPACE, discussed the organization’s mission to provide free and confidential services to victims of sexual violence.

“We have a hotline, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week hotline that’s run by confidential sexual violence advocates,” Carter said. “Our role in healingSPACE, aside from community outreach, is we also do prevention education, which is when we go to colleges and schools all over Bergen County and provide them with workshops and different programming pertaining to topics related to sexual violence like healthy relationships, consent, what it is, what it isn’t.”

OVP was also joined by Alternatives to Domestic Violence (ADV), which discussed the organization’s similar free and confidential services for individuals affected by domestic violence in Bergen County. 

“We know that there’s a lot of stigma still in the community about abuse and the way that abuse works,” Community Educator and Training Technician Laura Melendez said. “It makes it hard for survivors to reach out.”

She also spoke on the ADV’s LGBTQ+ inclusive services, recognizing that “abuse can happen to everyone, to any person, and everyone is entitled to thrive in a relationship.”

Alex Woods, coordinator for Ramapo’s Women’s Center and LGBTQ Services, joined the event for that specific reason.

“Violence is experienced by all people, but it’s especially experienced by LGBTQ people and women,” they explained. “The Women’s Center and LGBTQ+ services works very closely with the Office of Violence Prevention and supporting each other’s initiatives because they’re interconnected issues.”

Woods went on to note, “You can’t talk about LGBTQ issues without talking about violence, and you can’t talk about women’s issues without talking about violence either. It’s directly played. We see it in the media, the attacks on trans rights and trans people, and furthermore, the nonbinary community, the butch community…so we’re stronger together.”

The next event, Denim Day Fashion Show, will be held on Wednesday, April 24 from 8-11 p.m. in Friends Hall.


Featured photo by Amanda Jones