Domestic violence experts emphasize that a sexual assault occurs every 98 seconds in America.
This weekend, Vera House of Syracuse created a display as part of the Clothesline Project at Destiny Mall honoring survivors of sexual assault and abuse. At the unveiling ceremony this weekend, survivors spoke about their experiences and used their stories to empower others.
300 T-shirts now hang on a clothesline on the third floor of Destiny Mall. Each shirt is hand-decorated with stories, advice, and encouragement from survivors of abuse and assault. Angela Douglas, the associate director of Vera House Incorporated, says sparking a larger conversation about these issues is the first step in addressing them.
“The voices that are coming forward in our country and across the world are bringing it to the forefront, and finally we’re able to bring it to a place where hopefully now it can have conversation and be understood.”
Though Vera House has presented clothesline displays in the past, Douglas believes the spread of the #MeToo movement has created a larger conversation about abuse and assault. Because of this, she adds, there’s been an increase in people looking for support locally.
“Once that occurred, I think you began to see this take off in a way that helped people identify. We have seen increase in people identifying, connecting with, and needing support even in our own community.”
Alexandra Dukat, a speaker from the Survivor's Network of Vera House who helped facilitate the tribute, explains that the Clothesline Project has given survivors like herself a creative way to heal and provide support to others.
“We’re able to portray our message through art and words on shirts, and really, it was an anonymous way for us to get our pain out in whatever way possible and our hope and what we’ve gone through as well.”
Dukat also alluded to the growing prevalence of the #MeToo movement, saying it is helping connect survivors and show the community how widespread these issues really are.
“It really just showed how long this epidemic has been going on and how many people have been impacted. It’s not just women; its people all over and of all ages. People on my Facebook were putting up the #MeToo message. They were my own family members that I had no idea. Knowing that I had been speaking publicly, and maybe they were listening all along, that was really powerful.”
Vera House offers shelter, advocacy, counseling, and education services for men, women, and children affected by domestic violence and sexual assault.
The Clothesline Project will be on public display in Destiny Mall until Sunday, April 15th, which is also Volunteer Recruitment Day at the display. Tuesday, April 10th is Accessibility Day at the project where sign language interpretation will be provided, and Saturday, April 14th will be Youth Day as well as the Closing Ceremony.