Clothes­line Project seeks bet­ter aware­ness of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - News - By Jor­dan Richart The Tri­bune

BROWNSTOWN, Ind. — The rain fell hard at times dur­ing a re­cent af­ter­noon as 59 home­made T-shirts pinned to the Jack­son County Court­house fence bil­lowed in the wind.

The sound of fall­ing rain and traf­fic pass­ing by the court­house was all that could be heard as vol­un­teers and mem­bers of the com­mu­nity hung the shirts for the Clothes­line Project.

Each shirt con­tained the name and age of the 59 vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence be­tween June 30, 2017, and July 1 of this year. Each also was dec­o­rated with var­i­ous draw­ings.

Each vic­tim was a per­son with a life ahead of them.

Turn­ing Point of Jack­son County, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that as­sists vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, or­ga­nized the event, which in­cluded guest speak­ers and pin­ning the shirts to the fence.

The event was part of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s ef­fort dur­ing Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Aware­ness Month, which is ob­served each Oc­to­ber.

A sim­i­lar Clothes­line Project was con­ducted at Cum­mins Sey­mour En­gine Plant.

“It’s a re­ally somber re­flec­tion about how se­ri­ous of an is­sue this is,” Char­lotte Moss of Turn­ing Point said of the shirts. “It hap­pens in our state, in our county and in our towns.”

It was the first time the or­ga­ni­za­tion hosted an aware­ness event in Brownstown, but the one at Cum­mins on East Fourth Street Road has been in place since 2013.

In 2017, 56 T-shirts were hung on the clothes­line with three of them rep­re­sent­ing Jack­son County res­i­dents. In 2016, the num­ber of T-shirts hung on the clothes­line was 53.

Moss thanked the small group that gath­ered for the event out­side the court­house. That group mostly con­sisted of Brownstown Cen­tral High School stu­dents, who helped dec­o­rate and hang the shirts, and law en­force­ment of­fi­cials.

“This is a big deal to have an event here,” Moss said.

Do­mes­tic vi­o­lence oc­curs be­tween in­ti­mate part­ners, in­clud­ing spouses, peo­ple dat­ing, peo­ple who live to­gether such as fam­ily mem­bers and peo­ple in other types of close re­la­tion­ships, Moss said.

Do­mes­tic vi­o­lence oc­curs quite fre­quently, she said.

A telling ex­am­ple of how often in­volves a Turn­ing Point case­worker who in­tended to par­tic­i­pate in the Clothes­line Project but in­stead wound up in her car out­side the court­house re­spond­ing to a cri­sis.

Re­becca Ed­wards, a fresh­man at Brownstown Cen­tral High School, par­tic­i­pated in the Clothes­line Project and made three shirts. She said emo­tions were strong as she helped pin the shirts to the fence.

“I just think it’s re­ally sad that we see th­ese names,” she said, adding she hoped aware­ness will help the deaths de­crease. “It re­ally just hurts my heart.”

Ed­wards said it was dif­fi­cult to cre­ate the shirts as she thought about the num­ber of peo­ple and fam­i­lies af­fected by do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

“It’s sad, but they want them to be re­mem­bered in a bright and happy way,” she said. “I drew flow­ers, hearts and used a lot of col­ors.”

Ed­wards also is do­ing her part to try to raise aware­ness. She be­longs to Teens 4 Change, a group fo­cus­ing on rais­ing aware­ness about the is­sue and teen dat­ing vi­o­lence.

“We go through the com­mu­nity to try to make an im­pact so ev­ery­one knows about it,” she said.

Last year, stu­dents wore orange one day at school to raise aware­ness of dat­ing vi­o­lence.

“This re­ally is an is­sue, even if we don’t hear about it much,” she said. “I feel re­ally bad for th­ese fam­i­lies.”

Jack­son County Pros­e­cu­tor Jeff Chal­fant spoke to the group and said do­mes­tic vi­o­lence cases are the hard­est for his of­fice be­cause of the cir­cum­stances.

“Peo­ple who are vic­tim­ized by do­mes­tic vi­o­lence have a lot of pres­sure on them,” he said. “It’s dif­fi­cult for them to co­op­er­ate with us, and Turn­ing Point is very help­ful to us with that.”

Pres­sures in­clude fi­nances, chil­dren, stress re­gard­ing their abusers and more, Chal­fant said.

“We have to use ev­ery tool we can find to try to keep them on board and con­vict th­ese bat­ter­ers,” he said. “We lean on Turn­ing Point for that and law en­force­ment very closely to try to de­velop good cases that we can pros­e­cute.”

Chal­fant said in nearly ev­ery case of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, it is not the first abuse in­ci­dent in the re­la­tion­ship.

“Peo­ple don’t want to talk about it,” he said.

Chal­fant also called on the group to sup­port vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in ad­di­tion to the help they re­ceive from Turn­ing Point.

“Turn­ing Point wants peo­ple to know there’s al­ways some­one to talk to, but the com­mu­nity can do the same,” he said. “We need to reach out to peo­ple who have been bat­tered, en­cour­age them to get help and keep talk­ing to them.”

Pre­vent­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence is dif­fi­cult, but ed­u­ca­tion and rec­og­niz­ing it is a step that could help pre­vent it in the fu­ture, Moss said.

That’s why Turn­ing Point has pro­grams in lo­cal schools to ed­u­ca­tion youth about the is­sue.

Moss said she has led cour­ses at schools in Crothersville and Brownstown this year and is lead­ing one at Sey­mour High School now.

The course cov­ers re­la­tion­ships and signs of abu­sive re­la­tion­ships.

“Mid­dle school and high school stu­dents are re­ally in­ter­ested in this be­cause I think it brings it more to a re­al­ity for them that peo­ple ac­tu­ally die from things like this,” she said.

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