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Unique Project On South Coast College Campus Lets Abuse, Violence Survivors Know They Aren't Alone

Keyana Kelly is busy at work under a popup tent on the Ventura College campus.

She’s using paint to make a T-shirt which will be part of a huge display. But, this isn’t an art project. It’s an opportunity for survivors of physical and mental violence and abuse to break their silence, and bear witness to what they’ve endured.

Kelly says she grew up with an alcoholic father. She’s is taking part in “The Clothesline Project,” a local version of what’s become a national effort to let survivors speak out, and let them, and others who haven’t talked about what they’ve endured know they aren’t alone.

What started as a few T-shirts hung up on makeshift clotheslines on the campus 15 years ago has grown to an effort that covers about a quarter of a mile, with hundreds of T-shirts.

Dr. Lucy Capuano is advisor to the Ventura College Psychology Club, which organizes “The Clothesline Project” on campus. Over the years, it’s grown to include a day full of speakers who talk about everything from child abuse and domestic violence, to transgender acceptance and cyberbullying.

The T shirts are often heart wrenching. They say things like “The pain is gone, but the scars don’t go away” and “You hurt me, and said never tell, but you can’t touch me now.” Students walking through the campus admit it’s overwhelming to encounter the project.

Capuano says they intentionally want to have the T-shirts, and the booths with information, and counselors in a place where people will see them. For some students it can raise awareness about the issue. But for others, the hope is that seeing they are not alone will open the door to them setting support.