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Clothesline Project honors female violence victims in Dolores

Shirts hung up in front of the Second Chance Thrift Store in Dolores on Friday were brightly colored, but the stories written on them were even more striking.

The demonstration was part of the Clothesline Project, a nationwide effort to raise awareness of violence against women. People wrote messages on the shirts, including the stories of survivors of assault and abuse and stories of women who lost their lives as a result of violence from the region and across the country.

“It’s a beautiful way to stand in solidarity with women,” said Rhonda Smith, who organized the demonstration.

Smith learned about the Clothesline Project as a student at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee. The initiative started in 1990 in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and has since expanded to 41 states and five countries, according to its website. There are 500 separate Clothesline Projects across the United States with between 50,000 and 60,000 shirts, the website states.

Smith decided to bring it to the Dolores area, where she moved earlier this spring.

She invited onlookers to write a message on a shirt and hang it up if they felt comfortable doing so. The shirts were color-coded, with tan shirts representing stories of women who had been battered or assaulted, red and pink shirts representing survivors of rape and sexual assault, blue and green shirts representing survivors of incest or sex abuse, and white shirts representing women who had died as a result of violence, created by family members of the victims.

“We encourage people to fill out shirts,” Smith said. “We have had a lot of positive feedback so far.”

The project also serves as an art demonstration and a way for women to express themselves in a visual way, Smith said. It can be therapeutic for people to share their stories, she said.

“It’s cathartic,” Smith said. “A lot of art is born through pain.”