EMCC’s Clothesline Project brings awareness to domestic violence

October 01, 2019

Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) is observing Domestic Violence Awareness Month with The Clothesline Project. The sixth annual display can be seen on the north lawn outside Estrella Hall Oct. 1-26.

Started in 1990 by a group of women in Hyannis, Mass., The Clothesline Project brings awareness to domestic violence through decorated T-shirts hung on a clothesline display. EMCC’s shirts have been decorated by students, faculty, staff, and community members. Sociology Professor Dr. Olga Tsoudis, who spearheads the project, estimates EMCC’s shirt count to be over 200 with new tees added every year.

“Each shirt is different,” Dr. Tsoudis said. “Some include statistics, some include messages of inspiration, others are people’s personal stories. Some even include poetry.”

Every year prior to October, Dr. Tsoudis solicits worn, blank shirts to be used as canvases. Some are decorated in workshops, some in classrooms, and others in the privacy of one’s own home.

“Anytime anybody comes and asks me for a blank T-shirt, I make sure I get them one,” Dr. Tsoudis said.

She also puts extra clothespins on the line so that anyone who creates a shirt after the display has been installed can go hang it.

“Some people don’t want anyone to know which shirt they created,” she said. “It’s private. So they can hang it themselves rather than give it to me to hang.”

This year, New Life Center, the largest domestic violence shelter in the state, is taking part in the project by offering its residents the opportunity to decorate shirts, which will be hung in EMCC’s display.

“Participating in the project will give our residents the chance to express emotions related to their experiences,” said Devin Defendis, New Life Center Community Development Director.

Dr. Tsoudis said it’s a good way for them to express their feelings and know they’re helping someone, while at the same time helping themselves.

“Art is very therapeutic and I see this as art,” she said. “Anytime you can do a hands-on project where you express something, it can be very therapeutic for somebody.” 

According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, three women are killed every day in the U.S. as a direct result of domestic violence.

“Domestic Violence Awareness Month is important because of the scope of the problem,” Defendis said. “Every single person knows someone who is a victim of domestic violence, whether they are aware of it or not.”

Dr. Tsoudis said she hopes the project serves as a reminder that we don’t always know people’s stories.

“So many times, we wonder why people are behaving in a certain way,” she said. “This is a reminder that we don’t know what’s going on in their lives.”

She also hopes that the project raises awareness for anyone who is in a domestic violence situation or knows someone in a situation to seek out resources such as EMCC’s counselors. 

“We have wonderful counselors here at EMCC and they’re always available,” she said.

Lastly, she hopes the project brings attention to “red flags.”

“In my class, when I bring my students out to look at the shirts, we talk about red flags,” Dr. Tsoudis said. “Maybe you start dating someone and they’re texting you 20 times a day. Or they get angry when they don’t know where you are. Or they want your passwords. Those kinds of things.”

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, physical violence is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior as part of a much larger, systematic pattern of dominance and control. On average, 20 people experience intimate partner violence every minute in the U.S. That equates to more than 10 million abuse victims annually.

“Domestic violence continues to impact millions of people every year in the United States,” Defendis said. “We can all work together to spread awareness and end domestic violence.”

EMCC offers personal and crisis counseling free to students, faculty, and staff. The Counseling Division is in Komatke B just past the Financial Aid Department. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays. Walk-ins are welcome, but if you would like to make an appointment, call 623-935-8909. To learn more about EMCC’s counseling services, go to https://www.estrellamountain.edu/students/counseling.

New Life Center, founded in 1991, serves survivors of domestic violence through its crisis hotline, emergency shelter, Children’s Program, and mobile-based advocacy. It provides up to 120 days of shelter, along with safety planning, basic needs, meals, one-on-one emotional support, psychoeducational support groups, case management, resources and referrals, lay legal advocacy, and barrier reduction funds to support with long-term housing solutions. To reach New Life Center, call 623-932-4404. To learn more about New Life Center, go to https://www.newlifectr.org/.