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Notre Dame's Clothesline Project Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

Notre Dame of Maryland University

May 2, 2017


1 out of every 6 women has been a victim of attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

1 in 5 girls is a victim of child sexual abuse.

Every 9 seconds in the U.S., a woman is assaulted or beaten.

These are some of the many statistics that the Clothesline Project is fighting against.

Each year, the Clothesline Project displays t-shirts decorated by survivors of physical, sexual and emotional violence. The t-shirts are hung on clotheslines tied around trees in Doyle lawn. Each t-shirt shares a story about abuse and survival.

Dr. Susan Barber, a retired associate professor of history at Notre Dame, started the project on campus back in 1997 as part of her Introduction Women’s Studies class in collaboration with the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup, Maryland. Since then, the Clothesline Project has become an integral part of the campus community, reflecting the university’s mission of social justice and women’s empowerment through education.

This year, the project is a collaboration between the criminology department at Notre Dame and MCIW since Dr. Barber’s retirement. Dr. Mischelle VanBrakle and Professor Ashley Fundack successfully spearheaded the project in its 20th year. Rather than standing as a service component of a class, the project was opened up to any student interested in volunteering. Student volunteers visited MCIW in four sessions, working with incarcerated women in decorating the shirts and listening to their stories of abuse and violence.

Professor Fundack explains that this year’s MCIW participants were excited and responded well to the project. “One participant said to me, ‘My voice is my shirt and it will be heard’ It was a total success as we helped the women to heal and have their voices heard while continuing to raise awareness on violence against women,” she says.