Clothesline Project/Take Back the Night rally gives public non-physical examples of combatting abuse

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Clothesline Project/Take Back the Night rally gives public non-physical examples of combatting abuse

When Kay Mendick looks out upon the sea of clotheslined T-shirts hanging in solemn tribute in the UND Memorial Union Ballroom this week, she senses a loud and strong counter blow against community violence.

It may not be a physical response ? but, Mendick, director of UND's Women's Center, says the impact is equally effective.

For 19 years at UND, the Clothesline Project ? hundreds of T-shirts designed and decorated by victims of abuse ? has been a bold, poignant reminder that physical and verbal violence against women, children and men abounds everywhere in society. But for Mendick, it's also a reminder that standing up against such abuse can come in a variety of nonviolent forms.

"I think that when we hear the words 'fighting back,' generally, we think about something physical," Mendick said. "But the reality is that every one of the shirts reflects individuals 'fighting back.' By telling their story ? they are fighting back. By reaching out for help ? they are fighting back. Those who take the time to walk through the project, those who educate themselves about the issue of violence in all of its many, ugly forms are fighting back.

"Those who volunteer to hold the hand of someone who has been hurt or mistreated is fighting back against violence. Anytime anyone stands up and refuses to be a bystander ? they are fighting back."

Mendick said that another nonphysical way of combatting violence is to simply get educated about the issue. Still another way is to volunteer one's time at organizations such as the Community Violence Intervention Center (CVIC) in Grand Forks.

"We can simply say 'I am not going to stay silent about this issue. I know that the responsibility for ending violence lies with those who perpetrate violence.'" Mendick said. "That is fighting back."

Each year, the Clothesline Project at UND coincides with the Take Back the Night rally, an evening lecture with a guest speaker on the topic of combatting violence, followed by a community march through campus to bring awareness to the issue. Tonight, Karyn Hippen, mayor of Thompson, N.D. and a victim of domestic violence, will be the speaker at this year's Take Back the Night rally. Her talk begins at 7 p.m., before the march around campus.

"The Take Back the Night rally ? by its very name ? is fighting back," Mendick said. "It is taking a stand and standing together with others who also want to bring more peace to our community and shouting it from the rooftops."

The Clothesline Project continues until Friday, Oct. 17, in the Memorial Union Ballroom.

Shawls accepted

Also, this year, the Women's Center included shawls for the Clothesline Project. Those choosing to contribute to the display, have the option to decorate a shawl.

Jackie Hoffarth, a graduate service assistant with the Women's Center said, "Shawls are held in high esteem by Native women." This can be seen at regional Powwows with the "Shawl Dance," performed only by women dancers.

"We feel giving the option of decorating a shawl in place of a T-shirt, moves us toward being more culturally inclusive," Hoffarth said.

The inclusion of shawls is not the first change the Clothesline Project organizers have made to their event.

Mendick mentions, a few years ago, there was an addition of "The Empty Place At The Table" display, which brings awareness to the emptiness a family feels when a loved one is taken from them through violence.

Mendick said this year, as in the past, the public and campus community's response to the Clothesline Project has been strong.

"People walking through are incredibly thoughtful as they read the shirts. You can almost feel it," Mendick said. "Our students are fantastic. We had many student volunteers come in last Sunday evening to set up the project. Their lives are so busy and yet they find the time to help us in a any way that we ask to insure that the project is ready for everyone to experience it."

David Dodds and Jordan Cespedes University & Public Affairs

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