Wear your heart on your sleeve

One in three women and one in ten men will be raped in their lifetimes, according to a Woman’s Rape and Crisis Center (WRCC) press release.In order to bring awareness to the prevalence of sexual abuse, WRCC is hosting The Clothesline Project, a display of t-shirts made by victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence and their loved ones, according to a WRCC press release. The Clothesline Project will be shown at the Metropolitan Gallery at Burlington City Hall as one of many events related to Sexual Violence Awareness Month. This is the third year that WRCC has hosted the Clothesline Project. It was first instituted in 1990 by the Women’s Agenda in Massachusetts, according to the Clothesline Project Web site.”We would tell people how bad the domestic violence statistics were, and we felt it would go in one ear and out the other,” Carol Chichetto said, National Contact Person for the project. “We wanted to come up with some … other vehicle to raise awareness.””We used t-shirts because they were readily available and we didn’t really have any money,” Chichetto said. “It has proven … to stop people in their tracks. Once you read that first shirt, you have to keep reading.”The Clothesline Project has spread rapidly and has allowed women’s advocates a chance to reach “younger and younger audiences” in an attempt to prevent children from later becoming victims or perpetrators of sexual violence, Chichetto said. The Burlington exhibit is sponsored by the Women’s Rape Crisis Center, Women Helping Battered Women, Safespace and the UVM Women’s Center.The Clothesline Project is immediately visible upon entering City Hall. A few of the shirts are arranged in a semicircle on a clothesline, while others hang on the walls. The t-shirts are color-coded according to the type of sexual violence experienced by their creators.Some of the shirts express messages of strength and hope. Others express the raw anguish of a victim of sexual assault.”This is my black and blue heart,” reads one, above an illustration of a dark heart.”Her mother was late picking her up, so a man gave her a ride,” reads another. “Thirty years later life remains a shit?ty and painful rollercoaster.””As an educational medium, the Clothesline project has few peers,” said Catherine Slocum, Fundraising and Outreach Coordinator of the Women’s Rape Crisis Center. “It brings viewers face to face with the painful and courageous stories … exposing a side of life that has too long remained a silent and destructive force.”The Clothesline Project will be on display downtown until April 30. However, there are other chances to recognize and participate in Sexual Violence Awareness Month.”Sexual Violence Awareness Month is very important because it creates awareness of sexual violence that affects our daily lives,” Slocum said.”One in four women and one in ten men will be sexually assaulted or will have it attempted,” Slocum said.According to Chichetto, “there are still three times as many animal shelters as there are shelters for battered women.”On April 18, a Healing Fire at the Women’s Center will allow survivors of sexual assault and their allies a chance to add messages on paper to the fire or offer a piece of wood. From 4:30-6:00 p.m. on April 30 in front of the Bailey/Howe Library, UVM is holding a Take Back the Night march and rally.”We in Vermont observe Sexual Violence Awareness Month because we see the need for the community to come together to end all sexual violence,” said Jeanne Kaczka-Valliere, Director of Education & Outreach at WRCC. “Through events like Take Back the Night, we hope to educate the community on is?sues of sexual violence and to support those who have been affected.”