Annual clothesline project tells victims’ stories

The annual Crime Victimes Week clothesline hung in the Bronx County Courthouse rotunda on April 25 and 26.
Photo by Kirsten Sanchez

“This too shall pass,” read one of thousands of t-shirts hung at the annual Crime Victims Week Clothesline Project.

The clothesline, hung in the Bronx County Building Rotunda April 25 and 26, displayed t-shirts decorated by children and adults who have suffered domestic abuse, rape or gun violence and other types of abuse. Beth-Ann Holzhay, director of the Crime Victims Assistance Unit in the Bronx District Attorney’s office, said the clothesline was adopted by the borough in 1993 and can have many different meanings.

“The clothesline was used because that was a place where women used to communicate with each other, while they were hanging their laundry on the clothesline,” she said.

Another interpretation, she said “is that we are airing out America’s dirty laundry behind abuse.”

Although the clothesline was originally started for violence against women, Holzhay said it was expanded to include men.

“We expanded it because in Bronx County, we see it happens to men just as much as women,” she said. “Abuse happens to everyone.”

Each t-shirt represents a survivor or a family member of someone who was killed, while the different colors signify which type of abuse they suffered.

“For me personally, it is important to see people put these messages out there rather than keep it stuck inside,” Holzhay said. “It is a way for them to express their pain.”

The project now has over 2,000 shirts, she said.

The clothesline can also be used for education.

“This year we contacted four local schools and brought them in and used the clothesline to organize some educational events,” she said. “They were able to walk around and view the clothesline and watch skits about cyber bullying and sexting, and then had discussions on these two issues.”

Other activities throughout the week included speeches by victims and seminars on elder abuse.

“The clothes line,” she said, “is a way of showing survivors they are not alone.”

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