Zachary Butcher, a senior majoring in history at The University of Texas-Pan American, designed a T-shirt for UTPA's annual The Clothesline Project - a program focused on the issues of domestic violence - in hopes of raising awareness about a problem that Butcher believes is non-gender specific.
"I feel like domestic violence is not just a problem for women. It is a community problem and we all need to talk openly about these issues. Change will not happen if we are silent," Butcher said.
The Clothesline Project began in Cape Cod, Mass. in 1990 as a community project addressing the issue of violence against women. Women in the community were encouraged to come together to share their responses and decorate a T-shirt. All the T-shirts were then strung up on a clothesline and displayed in the community to bring awareness. The conversation has spread and now The Clothesline Project has expanded worldwide.
Butcher, like many other UTPA students, continued the 23-year-long tradition and decorated their personal messages on T-shirts outside the Social and Behavioral Sciences building. Many shirts flashed messages of solidarity with victims, empowerment for survivors, catchy anti-violence slogans, and personal testimonies.
Dr. Caroline Miles, associate professor of English literature and director of the Gender and Women Studies program at UT Pan American, has organized The Clothesline Project at UTPA for the past two years. The project is also made possible by funding from the Office of the Dean of Students.
The Clothesline Project allows participants to share their experiences and reactions to domestic violence and continues to attract an overwhelming number of students, staff, and members of the UTPA community, Miles said.
Each year, Miles and her staff have ordered 200 shirts and all of them are decorated, she said.
"It is heartbreaking to read some of the T-shirts and realize how domestic violence really affects the community at large. Yet, is so great to see the students and community speaking out and connecting to such an important awareness program," Miles said.
Members of the local community such as Mujeras Unidas -- a local 24-hour shelter and hotline, providing services for victims of domestic violence in the Rio Grande Valley community -- lent their support and were present during the two-day event.
"Many people are afraid to speak out, so we are here to let the students and UTPA community know that we are here to help them or anyone they know who is a victim of domestic violence," said Sarahi Cardoza, a participant with Mujeras Unidas.
Many of the T-shirts will be on display at future Gender and Women's Studies events around campus. For more information about the Gender and Women's Studies program and upcoming events, visit the program's website or email Miles at email@example.com.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, or abuse, and in need of assistance, you can contact the Mujeras Unidas 24-hour crisis hotline at 1-800-580-4879, the UTPA Campus Police Department at (956) 665-7151, or the UTPA Counseling Services at (956) 665-2574.