Take Back the Night event well attended
Clothesline Project coming to Versailles

Wanda English Burnett

Shirts lined the clothesline that was strung on both sides of the podium where women told their stories of abuse and rape at the annual “Take Back The Night” event held April 22 sponsored by the Community Mental Health Center.

Designs on the shirts were reflective of pain caused by abuse. Some were made by the victims, or survivors, while others were made by family and friends to honor what their loved ones have endured. Words such as “why, dirty, and fear” were seen on many shirts. Phrases such as “I’m your partner, not your possession”, and “Love Should Never Hurt”, and “She’s my daughter, Why?” were expressed. The shirts are a visual tribute to survivors of sexual assault and abuse.

Cathy Dwyer with Community Mental Health Directions! Support and Advocacy Services, welcomed the crowd at the Dearborn Adult Center. She noted that society as a whole tends to blame victims of sexual assault, saying things like, “Well they went to the party,” or “they wore that outfit.” She said often when victims come forward to say what has happened, they are the ones blamed. “It is our job to change this tide of victim blaming...even when it’s not the perfect crime, we need to dig deeper,” Dwyer advised.

Dwyer cautioned those in attendance that sometimes those in authority look the other way if they don’t have the evidence they feel is necessary to convict. “Remember, just because there’s not enough evidence doesn’t mean a crime didn’t occur,” she stated. She thanked the Batesville and Lawrenceburg police for being represented at the event, as well as the Dearborn County Prosecutor’s office.

A greater awareness gives power to make sure the rapists are brought to justice. Dwyer told those gathered that by their presence they were making a difference.

Statistics from the National Crime Center note that one out of two women will be in a violent relationship. The U.S. Justice Department states that every single minute of every day more than one woman is raped in America. Armed with statistics such as these spurs Dwyer and others forward with their quest to fully support victims/survivors of crimes such as these.

Survivors of sexual assault were featured speakers for the event with passionate stories of lives forever changed.

Sex crimes reach across a broad spectrum. One speaker came from an affluent family where “the mayor was invited to their house on a regular basis”. She was still assaulted by her grandfather, beginning when she was two-years-old, who was well respected in the community. He was never brought to justice.

Another speaker, who was sexually assaulted in her own home at the age of ten, went on to have other acts of sexual violence against her, including a gang rape when she was in the military. She had failed relationships and told her devastation when first learning she was pregnant. She didn’t want to bring a little girl into the world who might suffer the same abuses as she had.

In addressing the crowd, Dwyer repeated the phrase, “rape affects every aspect of your life - for the rest of your life.”

Both of the featured speakers expressed their brokenness and feelings of being betrayed by people they thought loved them. They thanked Dwyer for inviting them to share their stories and further their healing. Both noted that God was the number one source of their healing, but support and therapy also played pertinent roles.

The evening ended with families of victims/survivors lighting candles in their honor and the chant heard, “Mothers, Daughters, Sisters, Men - Let’s make the night safe again!” Those participating in the candle lighting ceremony noted it was a poignant reminder of the barbaric crimes that are committed against women.

The Clothesline Project will be on display this Thursday, April 29 at the Ripley County Courthouse in Versailles from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Everyone is invited to the display that brings awareness of women survivors of violence such as rape, sexual assault, dating violence, and domestic violence. This visual awareness is a tribute to the courage of all women and brings about awareness of the heinous crimes against the women.

Tables will be set up for those wanting to create their own shirt to join the others hanging on the clothesline. Advocates for the program will be on hand to further discuss the Clothesline Project, which originated in Massachusetts in the fall of 1990. It is now in more than 500 communities and several foreign countries.

No names are used as the shirts are created to protect the privacy of those who have already been violated. The materials to create a shirt are available for anyone who wants to participate. Also, a licensed therapist will be available for those with questions or needing to talk.

For more information or if you are interested in becoming a volunteer for Directions! Rape Crisis Support & Advocacy Services, you can contact Dwyer at 812-532-3470 or email her at Cathy.Dwyer@cmhc.org.