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Penn State Gender Equity Center hosts 'Clothesline Project' to support domestic violence survivors

T-shirts on a table with messages supporting survivors of domestic violence
Becky Marcinko
T-shirts sit on tables during a shirt-making event hosted by the Gender Equity Center in the Paterno Library on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. The center will display the shirts with messages of support for survivors of domestic violence on clotheslines across campus starting on Oct. 11.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Penn State’s Gender Equity Center is preparing for its “Clothesline Project” to show support for survivors.

On a recent evening, students spread out at tables in Paterno Library’s Mann Auditorium to paint T-shirts for the Clothesline Project.

Interim Director of the Gender Equity Center Yvette Willson guided attendees, giving them ideas for what to write — including “Rape jokes are not funny” and “I believe you.”

Willson said she hopes the T-shirts will act as a therapeutic and educational tool.

“I think the most important thing is to let survivors know that no matter what they have experienced, people are here who believe them and support them,” Willson said.

Those who came to decorate a shirt could choose a color, with each color representing a different type of violence. Student Anna Lieberman painted a blue shirt, for survivors of incest or childhood sexual abuse, with the words “It’s not your fault.”

“I think the most important thing in their recovery is to realize that they’re the victims — it had nothing to do with them,” Liberman said. “It was really just the fault of the abuser.”

After two more shirt-making events in October, the decorated shirts will hang on clothes lines across campus starting Oct. 11