Stories of sexual abuse survivors on display with Clothesline Project

They're stories of survival - hung with care - that chronicle some dark memories. But they're not expressions of defeat, because these artists don't call themselves victims anymore.

"Airing what some people might have called their dirty laundry is just so important,â?? said Jessica Gregory, the prevention educator with the Bay Area Womenâ??s Center. Survivors of sexual violence designed dozens of T-shirts for the Bay Area Clothesline Project. They were displayed at Saginaw Valley State University Tuesday.

Each shirt tells its own story through words and pictures. Rape survivors decorated red shirts, survivors of child sexual abuse used blue shirts and survivors of domestic violence used yellow shirts.

"It might be a shirt that expresses a lot of anger, or it might be a T-shirt that expresses a lot of hope,â?? Gregory said.

Every shirt is a triumph over silence â?? a call for survivors to step out of the shadows and take a stand against sexual violence. Itâ??s a memorial for others who died before their voices could be heard.

"A lot of times we encounter victims, other victims in the community who are able to take a look at the shirts and realize maybe that they're not alone, and that there's some help available for them as well,â?? said Gregory.

She added, this very public act of putting it all on the line is often part of healing from a private wound.

Though the words and pictures painted on T-shirts recount painful memories of betrayal and hate, the clothesline is a vehicle for survivors to hang up and let go of whatever shame that might have kept them silent.

"We don't want people to have to hide what has happened to them anymore,â?? Gregory said.

Itâ??s a reminder no woman is left out to dry on her own.

The Clothesline Project will be on display at McLaren â?? Bay Regionâ??s main lobby from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at St. Maryâ??s of Michigan Standish Hospital from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please contact Bay Area Womenâ??s Center at (989) 686-4551 or (800) 834-2098 or your local law enforcement office for immediate assistance. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 787-3224 (TDD).