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UMFK Blake Gallery to feature "The Clothesline Project"

April 2, 2004


The University of Maine at Fort Kent and Aroostook Mental Health Center's Sexual Assault Services are joining together to raise awareness about sexual violence during April, which is designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

During the week of April 2-9, The Clothesline Project, a visual display that bears witness to the violence against women, will be featured in the Blake Library Gallery at UMFK.

The Clothesline Project (CLP) is a program started on Cape Cod, Massachusetts in October 1990 to address the issue of violence against women. That year 31 shirts were displayed on a village green in Hyannis, Massachusetts as part of an annual "Take Back the Night" march and rally. Throughout the day, women came forward to create shirts and the line kept growing.

The project is a vehicle for women affected by violence to express their emotions by decorating a shirt. They then hang the shirt on a clothesline to be viewed by others as testimony to the problem of violence against women.

According to the Clothesline Project, the idea of using a clothesline was a natural. Doing the laundry was always considered women's work and in the days of close-knit neighborhoods, women often exchanged information over backyard fences while hanging their clothes out to dry.

The exhibit is designed to promote awareness of sexual assault, which continues to plague our nation. It also provides a forum for those who would like to express their support for survivors and/or victims of sexual assault and for those who would like to see this heinous act abolished.

At the present time, the Clothesline Projects organization estimates there are 500 projects nationally and internationally with an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 shirts. They know of projects in 41 states and 5 countries. This ever-expanding grassroots network has reached as far as Tanzania.

According to a 2001 study conducted by the National Victim Center, 1.3 women in the United States over the age of 18 are forcibly raped each minute. That translates to 78 an hour, 1,871 per day or 683,000 per year.

"Every member of the community has a role to play in stopping sexual assault, whether it be providing services, creating public policy or simply being supportive of those who have been affected by sexual violence," said Stan Pettegrow, sexual assault and trauma recovery director. "Sexual assault affects every part of Aroostook County and it is time to plan to take action."

The exhibit may be viewed during regular library hours. For more information on the exhibit or gallery hours, contact Sofia Birden, exhibit curator at 834-7527.