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Striking images make viewers aware of domestic violence

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Clothesline Project was on display near the Shelbyville square this week. Members of a support group created the tees to bring attention to Domestic Violence Awareness Month. An abuse survivor reminds victims, "You don't have to live like that," with this shirt.
(T-G Photo by Tracy Simmons)
A visual display designed to draw attention to Domestic Violence Awareness Month caused traffic problems at the intersection of Depot Street and the Highway 82 Bypass earlier this week.

"People were slowing down and trying to see," said Barbara Simmons, the county's advocate and shelter coordinator for Haven of Hope.

This is the non-profit's first year to take part in The Clothesline Project, an initiative which began in 1990 with a Hyannis, Mass., women's group who wanted to create a visually striking monument to inspire conversations about domestic abuse.

Healing exercise

Noting that women in close-knit neighborhoods traditionally shared information over backyard fences while hanging laundry out to dry, the Clothesline Project was formed.

The shirts were designed by 10 local women who attend a group counseling session.

"Making these shirts was a healing tool for the survivors," said Simmons.

Shirts that hang on the Clothesline represent a wide spectrum of abuse.

Although each shirt is unique, color-coding is used to represent the different dimensions of violence against women and children. For example, white shirts are designed to honor victims who have died as a result of domestic abuse.

One mother in the group paid tribute to her 4-month-old son, Adam, who died as a victim of domestic abuse.

Yellow or beige shirts are by women who have been battered or assaulted, red shirts are decorated by and for women who have been raped or sexually assaulted and blue shirts signify women and children who are survivors of incest.

Emotional choice

Simmons, who has worked for Haven of Hope for 14 years, was moved by the indecision one of the ladies had in picking out a shirt color.

"Is something wrong?" she asked.

"Besides that white one, I could pick any one of these," was the response.

"When you see something that you can put your hands on, and read it and it affects you -- that's bringing awareness to the community," Simmons said. "It was a healing tool for the survivors, and for us as advocates, it moved us to continue to do this work.

Moving display

Simmons is seeking a traffic-friendly location to continue the display outdoors. For now, it has been moved into a hallway at First Baptist Church. The display will relocate to the foyer of Edgemont Baptist Church on Oct. 17.

Haven of Hope's mission is to provide proactive, curative, and preventive measures against domestic violence and to provide caring support and services to victims of domestic violence. Workers also talk to outside organizations about domestic violence in order to raise awareness.

The agency provides emergency shelter and outreach advocacy services for victims and their families in Bedford, Coffee, Franklin, Lincoln, Marshall and Moore counties.

Special month

Earlier this week, County Mayor Eugene Ray signed a proclamation designating October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Bedford County.

"This month let us remember the victims of domestic violence, celebrate the survivors and work together to eliminate violence against women and children from our community," it read in part.


Haven of Hope has a 24-hour hotline for victims of domestic violence, 800-435-7739. Bedford County residents may call 680-3005.