Rape survivors tell their stories through T-shirts

Rex Santus

Victims of rape and their friends and families have created more than 40 shirts for the Clothesline Project during its two years at Kent State, said Amanda Roder, project coordinator at the Women’s Center.

The project, founded in 1990 in Massachusetts, dedicates itself to addressing the issue of violence against women. Contributors design T-shirts detailing their stories. The shirts are then hung on a clothesline, serving as symbols against sexual violence.

“Some people find it easier to express themselves through a shirt than telling their story by talking to someone.” – Amanda Roder

“Each person has their own story to bring to their T-shirt,” Roder said. “Some people do it as a way of expressing what’s happened to them; other people do it as a way of empowering themselves.”

The number of contributors and shirts continues to grow at the university, Roder said.

Shannon Montgomery, senior human development and family studies major and Clothesline Project contributor, said although she is not a victim of violence, she finds it empowering to be part of the movement.

“I do have such a passion for awareness and for victims,” Montgomery said. “I just think it’s a really heavy topic, so I just wanted to do what I could to help with the Women’s Center and the issue itself.”

Montgomery’s shirt, inspired by the novel “Speak,” features quotes from a poem, which itself was inspired by letters from victims of rape.

“I’ve read it a couple of times, and I just really like it a lot,” Montgomery said. “I do have a friend who was sexually assaulted, so I have strong feelings for that.”

Montgomery said a man at a party assaulted her friend. He offered to take her home, and took advantage of her once they got to her house. This event also motivated Montgomery to contribute to the Clothesline Project.

Another contributor to the project used her fingers to paint her shirt and found peace when she had finished her design, Roder said.

“You couldn’t really read what it said, and it was just kind of a blur of colors and words,” Roder said. “She said, when she dropped it off, when she was done, it was like washing all the pain and everything away when she was washing the finger paint from her hands.”

Roder said there are many other stories such as this in which women find liberation, acceptance and reflection through the project.


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“It’s another way for survivors to express themselves,” Roder said. “Some people find it easier to express themselves through a shirt than telling their story by talking to someone.”

Survivors of sexual assault or those who desire to contribute to the project can become involved by contacting the Women’s Center. Roder said it’s important for victims of violence to use artistic expression to move forward.

“I think that finding different avenues to express yourself if you’ve been sexually assaulted is a way of coping and moving on from the assault,” Roder said. “Whether it’s going to someone to talk with about the incident, whether it’s attending an event, decorating a T-shirt — whatever way someone can use a form of expression to heal from the assault, I think, is beneficial for their health.”

Contact Rex Santus at [email protected] .