Clothesline Project Cultivates Awareness of Domestic Violence in the Territory

Strung on four separate lines, rows of T-shirts display messages of empowerment for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. (Source photo by Bethaney Lee)

A statement was made on Saturday, strung from the central pillars within Tutu Park Mall on St. Thomas, that residents in the U.S. Virgin Islands are condemning domestic violence in the territory and commemorating the 260 islanders who have died in the last decade because of it.

The Department of Veteran Affairs partnered with the Family Resource Center to host the project in support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, using handmade T-shirts strung on a line to get the message across, coupled with a booth providing literature and resources.

“The Clothesline Project is a visual display of violence statistics that often go ignored,” the Department of Veteran Affairs’ Muria Nisbett said.

The display boasted 60 shirts designed by members of the community, each carrying a unique and poignant message. Some were direct, “Hands are not for hitting,” while others were more personal, “My womb is the stargate between the physical world and the spirit world. Respect it. Respect me! #4thebabies #stoptheviolence.”

Nisbett said each shirt was made by a survivor of violence or “by someone who has lost a loved one to violence, or by members of the community who want to help end domestic violence.”

This is the first time the entities have partnered for the project, but the history behind the display extends back to 1990 in Hyannis, Massachusetts.

According to the organization’s website, the Clothesline Project first appeared in 1990 after a member of the Cape Cod Women’s Defense Agenda learned of alarming statistics – just over 58,000 soldiers were killed in the Vietnam War, but during the same period 51,000 U.S. women were killed by the men who claimed to love them.

During this ongoing global pandemic, the nation’s domestic violence cases are rising and the territory is not excluded. In February of this year, the Virgin Islands Police Department reported there was a 24 percent increase in domestic violence calls compared to the pre-pandemic year, 2019.

T-shirts were crafted with paint or markers and hung in a display condemning domestic violence in the territory. (Source photo by Bethaney Lee)

“The purpose of the project is to increase awareness of the impact of violence and abuse, to honor a survivor’s strength to continue, and to provide another avenue for them to courageously break the silence that often surrounds their experience,” Nisbett said.

In a proclamation declaring October Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the territory, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. said domestic violence impacts everyone despite age, background, or religion.

“It takes away their independence, freedom and sense of security and victims often face a significant threat to their health and safety,” Bryan said. “My administration is working hard to ensure we build on progress already made in improving domestic violence prevention and response efforts. We will continue to support organizations such as the Women’s Coalition in bringing awareness to and providing protections against domestic violence.”

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence the Women’s Coalition of St. Croix can be contacted at 340-773-9272, the Family Resource Center on St. Thomas can be contacted at 340-776-3966, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline number is 1-800-799-7233.