University Observes Sexual Assault Awareness Month with Clothesline Project

"A kitten helped when I was four" -- writes a sexual abuse survivor on a T-shirt for all the world to see.

Sue Ellen Odom-Burduck, a Tennessee Technological University English department secretary, points to those words as representative of the power and emotion generated by the university's Women's Center 1999 "Clothesline Project."

Patterned after the National Clothesline Project, which began in 1990, domestic violence victims and their family and friends inscribe messages reflecting their experiences on T-shirts that are then hung from a clothesline and exhibited publicly. The shirts are witness to the universal scope of violence against women.

"It doesn't matter if you make two dollars a week or a million dollars a week, this violence hits any type of home," said Odom-Burduck. "It is here; it is local; you canÕt hide it or hide from it."

A recent shirt-making session illustrated the broad reach of the problem, said Odom-Burduck. Participants who thought they had similar backgrounds and lifestyles found violence had touched several in their group.

"Whether we work with people from the Genesis House's survivor support group or with university students, we have to be supportive at whatever level the victims will allow," she said. "You can't make someone open up, but I do assure victims they will feel something better, something different, if they will just participate."

Last year, Odom-Burduck led the center's efforts in organizing the first comprehensive Clothesline Project in the state. The exhibit is meant to be displayed publicly at places like the courthouse, public library and the university -- and it's meant to be a traveling show.

"We'll take the exhibit anywhere to allow people to view the shirts and stir efforts to support victims and their families," said Odom-Burduck.

The center's efforts have spurred local community awareness of violence against women. After last year's clothesline exhibit, Fleetguard organized a walk honoring Wilma Carr, a former employee who died as a result of domestic violence. Proceeds from the walk go to Genesis House.

This year's Clothesline Project, held in commemoration of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, will be displayed at Tennessee Tech Wednesday, April 14, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Weather permitting, the clothesline will be displayed on the Derryberry plaza. In case of rain, the display will be moved to the Roaden University Center's OVC Room. Shirts will be available for anyone wanting to create a message.
Apply Now