Clothesline Project seeks better awareness of domestic violence
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.