The RSVP Center and STARS collaborate on The Clothesline Project to help raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault.

The Clothesline Project was held at Lowry Mall on Oct. 3, continuing the tradition of decorating shirts to share personal stories dealing with sexual assault and violence.
The RSVP and STARS centers created The Clothesline Project in Lowry Mall on Oct. 3, 2018, to raise awareness of sexual violence. Courtesy of RSVP Mizzou

The Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center and Stronger Together Against Relationship & Sexual Violence programs at MU collaborated to hold The Clothesline Project at Lowry Mall on Oct. 3 to raise awareness around the prevalence of sexual assault.

“The Clothesline Project is a way for survivors of relationship violence to express themselves and tell their story in a way that’s healing and helpful,” Christian Cmehil-Warn, STARS treasurer, said.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. The event allowed sexual assault victims and their loved ones to heal through the tradition of decorating shirts.

“If you read what’s on the T-shirts you’ll realize that it covers a vast array of different kinds of abuse and what people are going through,” Claire Cook, a STARS member, said. “You look at [the T-shirts], and you realize that you’re not the only one that’s going through it.”

The Clothesline Project started in 1990, when a group of women in Massachusetts learned that almost as many women were killed by men who claimed to love them, than men died in the Vietnam War. 58,000 men were killed in the Vietnam War and 51,000 U.S. women were killed by a friend, boyfriend or spouse in the same time period as the war.

According to The Clothesline Project’s website, “The idea for the clothesline was natural, as doing the laundry was always considered women’s work, and in the days of close-knit neighborhoods, women often exchanged stories and other information over backyard fences to hang their clothes out to dry.”

From backyard fences to Senate Judiciary hearings, the STARS program is dedicated to helping any survivor who has been affected by sexual assault. STARS meetings focus on current events surrounding sexual assault.

Their last meeting was about Brett Kavanaugh, a Supreme Court nominee who was accused of sexual assault and misconduct. Kavanaugh was later confirmed into the Supreme Court on Oct. 6.

“As monumental as this moment is for women and for survivors, I think it’s a disservice to limit the issue to this one moment,” Jillian Cleaver, a STARS member, said. “This has been an issue and will continue to be an issue after Kavanaugh is either confirmed or not. It’s just a symptom of the larger issue.”

Kavanaugh’s hearing is just the most recent in a dizzying array of stories about political divisiveness.

“I’ve been keeping us on both sides of it, and of course there are people taking it to be a political tool used by the Democratic Party, and I think that it’s larger than that,” Cook said. “As you said it’s a bigger issue. It’s not just a Democratic Party issue. It’s the issue of violence not being taken seriously.”

Edited by Caitlyn Rosen |

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