Victims of sexual abuse break their silence with The Clothesline Project

MaryAnne Shults

T-shirts hung on lines of rope last Monday in a colorful display in the Saddleback College Quad. Written on the shirts were distressing and personal messages from those who have suffered unspeakable abuse.

The Clothesline Project advocates awareness of this shocking information.

According to the Men’s Rape Prevention Project in Washington DC, 58,000 soldiers died in the Vietnam war. During that same period of time, 51,000 women were killed mostly by men who supposedly loved them. In the summer of 1990, that statistic became the catalyst for a coalition of women’s groups on Cape Cod, Massachusetts to consciously develop a program that would educate, break the silence and bear witness to one issue – violence against women. –

Started in 1990 to speak to violence against women, the project uses a unique form of art therapy to allow victims to pour out their emotions by drawing or writing on a colored T-shirt. Specific colors represent the type of message. Red, pink and orange are for rape or sexual assault. Green and blue represent child sexual abuse. Grey is for human trafficking, purple signifies rape due to sexual orientation, black for sexual harassment, yellow for domestic violence and white for homicide.

The shirts are hung on a clothesline in a colorful yet poignant display as a personal testimony to this predicament that crosses lines of demographics world-wide.

Dominic Fucinari, 20, computer science was deeply affected emotionally by some of the poignant messages. They reminded him of his own “personal code of honor.”

“They remind me that I have a code of ‘death before dishonor,'” Fucinari said. “I’d rather die than be a perpetrator in one of these acts. I couldn’t live on knowing I’d committed a sex crime.”

The Family Violence Prevention Fund gathers statistics from agencies including the Department of Justice, FBI and local law enforcement relative to violent crimes against women.

On average, about three women a day are murdered by their intimate partner in the United States. Nearly one third of American women will experience some type of intimate partner violence.

Many of these women have children living in the household—and those child are often victims as well. This abuse may render dysfunctional activities or mental health issues later in life including obesity, tobacco abuse or drug abuse. A study by researchers at the University of North Carolina of 390 university women found a strong correlation between sexual assault and eating disorders.

Many are too ashamed to admit their abuse, which goes unreported.

Community Service Programs, Inc. in Santa Ana was at Saddleback last week to outreach within the community to provide education and resources as well as prevention tips.

“Rape is an act of violence,” said Tiare Brock, a sexual assault advocate and counselor with CSP. “It’s not a sexual act. It’s all about control.”

The number one drug involved in sexual assault of college students is alcohol, according to Brock. The attack is usually by an acquaintance.

“It used to called ‘date rape,'” Brock said. “However, 99 percent of the time, they are not on a date.”

Brock said CSP is the only rape crisis center in Orange County. They offer a hotline that is available 24/7. It responds to all calls including hospital cases.

CSP’s outreach program is offered through Girl Scouts, schools and colleges, and parent and teacher organizations. It also provides one-on-one counseling for acute cases as well as including adults molested as children.

Their 24-hour sexual assualt crisis hotline is 949-831-9110 or 714-957-2737.