Clothesline Project spotlights crime victims' plight

April 25, 2015

“I believe you,” “it was not your fault” and “you are not alone” are three phrases every crime victim needs to hear, according to the Crisis Center of Bristol. On Saturday, the phrases were repeated by many individuals attending the 5th Annual Clothesline Project, an event organized by the Crisis Center aimed to raise awareness for domestic violence and sexual assault.

The event was held in downtown Bristol along State Street and featured a variety of vendors, speakers, skits, food, music, games and discussion.

“One of the most important parts of social justice work is being able to get your voice out,” said Della McGuire, sexual-assault coordinator at the Crisis Center. “The clothesline became symbolic when women found the only way they could connect to other women was to talk to other women over the clothesline in their backyard. And so this is sort of a symbolic way to make that voice more public and to bring the dirty laundry out into the community.”

An actual clothesline hung at the farmers market Saturday, which was used to string up T-shirts with messages of support for crime victims.

A few skits were also performed, including “Can I Wear Your Hat,” which was developed by the Virginia Commonwealth University Wellness Resource Center. Another skit, called “Tea Party,” was also performed. Both skits are analogies for consensual sex.

In “Tea Party,” the audience asked, “Hey, would you like a cup of tea?” The performer on stage then responded with an answer such as “no” or “maybe later.”

Bristol Virginia Mayor Catherine Brillhart recognized the Crisis Center during the event with a proclamation.

Saturday marked the end of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

McGuire said sexual assault and domestic violence is underreported in Bristol.

“That underreporting, I think, makes it that much more necessary to for us to get these people together,” she said.

The Crisis Center, which provides help for those in crisis or just need to talk, is located on Oakview Avenue in Bristol, Virginia, and can be reached at 276-466-2218 or 866-953-0484.