On Wednesday, October 2, the student affairs counseling center COPE, also known as the Counseling Outreach Peer Education team, put together a rape culture representation dubbed The Clothesline Project, that was propped up on the outside paths parallel to the bookstore and in the direction of the Dooley building. According to the University of Miami informative website, COPE’s purpose is to “execute campus outreach programs that promote the Counseling Center and facilitate conversations about common mental health concerns that college students may encounter.”https://counseling.studentaffairs.miami.edu/outreach/cope/index.html
The display was held there all day, despite the heavy rain. The cope students who then rearranged the torn down display unknowingly acted as strong metaphoric representations of individuals who survived sexual abuse.
Information cards were placed in between a number of shirts. A note card titled “Why a Clothesline?” was meant to inform viewers of the meaning behind the clothesline. It stated that historically, many women who lived in close proximity would speak amongst themselves and share their abuse stories as they did their laundry. The Clothesline Project, created by visual artist Rachel Carey-Harper, grant victims to tell their story. It also spreads awareness and educating the student body on the types of abuse and to what extent they occur. Most importantly, The Clothesline Project helps the individual get a step closer to healing.
Two other note cards I spotted regarded to the statistical and factual violent outcome the victims suffer. One card compared the women who died due to sexual abuse as the same amount of soldiers who died in the Vietnam War. Almost matching with the Vietnam War with 58,000 perished, and abuse victims at 51,000. Far too many. The other card listed long-term health issues that were caused by the abuse such as asthma, stroke, arthritis, heart disease, HIV or STDs, an increased risk of heavy smoking and drinking, and chronic stress. One attack that leaves years of pain.
These three of many note cards have most definitely left me in shock, however this last card I saw really opened my eyes at the severeness of rape culture. The note card categorized each shirt color to a specific meaning. It stated this.
White t-shirts represent women who died due to violence.
Yellow and beige t-shirt represent women who were battered or assaulted.
Red, pink and orange t-shirts were for women who survived rape and sexual assault.
Blue and green t-shirts those who have survived incest.
Purple and lavender t-shirts represent women who were attacked due to their sexual orientation.
Black t-shirts represent women attacked for political reasons.
I spoke to a COPE student asking the background of these shirts, she confirmed that these shirts were decorated and turned in by University of Miami students, supporters, and friends and family who have lost a loved one to abuse. And when she said that I looked around to see that a majority of these shirts were white.
Walking down this path enlightened me to a higher level of knowledge I wasn't aware needed light. It is crucial we treat the women of this world as respected individuals, let alone human beings. It is women who bear children and raise our sons and daughters, sexual abuse is an epidemic that needs to be eradicated, and if governments are so invested in controlling basic body rights such as the absurd abortion laws and the old Chinese One Offspring law, there should be more than enough energy to protect our women and children.