The Clothesline Project is a display that bears witness to violence against women and aids in the healing process for survivors and the loved ones of victims. The clothesline is representative of the days when doing laundry was considered women’s work and neighborhood women exchanged stories over backyard fences when hanging their clothes out to dry. The original Clothesline Project began with 31 shirts hung in Hyannis, Massachusetts in October of 1990. North Dakota had its first Clothesline Project display in 1995 at the Great Hall of the Capitol Building during the legislative session. There were 114 shirts on display at that time. The purpose of the Clothesline Project is:
To bear witness to the survivors of violence against women.
To help with the healing process for people who have lost a loved one or are survivors of this violence.
To educate, document, and raise awareness of the extent of the problem of violence against women. Each clothesline is hung with color-coded shirts decorated to represent a particular woman’s or child’s experience with violence.
Witnesses are red because it is the color of life’s blood and the symbol of humanity’s unity beyond race, creed or culture. Shields have been placed over the witnesses’ hearts- the rhythm of life.
The Silent Witness exhibit promotes healing and peace in committed relationships by connecting victims with local resources for ending violence, raising community awareness of domestic violence, and encouraging community action to end societal violence.
The Silent Witness exhibit is a project of Living On (an initiative to assist friends and families of homicide victims in North Dakota) and is sponsored by CAWS North Dakota. The exhibit is available for display at organizations statewide.