By Ruby Siefken

For The Diamondback

Dozens of colorful shirts were displayed on Hornbake Plaza Wednesday in solidarity with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault as part of the university’s semi-annual Clothesline Project.

The Clothesline Project — hosted by the University of Maryland’s Campus Advocates Respond and Educate to Stop Violence office — aims to provide students with an outlet by displaying messages of strength and unity to combat domestic violence and sexual assault.

At Wednesday’s event, participants decorated shirts with personal stories and messages of hope to hang on clotheslines in remembrance. Some shirts also provided support for survivors of violence.

“Forgive yourself. It’s not your fault,” one shirt read.

Laura Widener, CARE to Stop Violence’s assistant coordinator for prevention education, participated in her third in-person Clothesline Project Wednesday.

Widener said the event brings awareness to the sexual assault and domestic violence issues on campus.

In the 2021-22 reporting period, the university received more than 280 sexual misconduct reports — more than double the number of reports in the 2020-21 reporting period.

“One piece of the message we are trying to send is that power-based violence, in particular focused on sexual assault and relationship violence, is an issue here on campus,” Widener said.

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The Clothesline Project hosts more than 125 annual events globally, from the United States to Australia. The university’s CARE to Stop Violence office adopted the Clothesline Project in the 1990s, Widener said.

Widener attributed the Clothesline Project’s success at the university to its location — Hornbake Plaza — due to its heavy traffic and open space.

“I think it really draws people and it draws attention,” Widener said.

Some professors at the university incentivized students to attend the event with extra credit and an opportunity for reflection.

While sophomore criminology and criminal justice major Ryan Kohler attended Wednesday’s event as an extra credit opportunity for class, he felt the display’s impact.

“My professor is a big advocate for violence awareness,” Kohler said, “I think it’s really nice what they have set up out here.”

Senior criminology and criminal justice major Havana Mohr-Ramirez has been involved with CARE to Stop Violence since her freshman year. After being part of CARE to Stop Violence’s peer education program, she eventually assumed her current role as a Step UP! educator — where she teaches students tools for harmful situation prevention.

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Mohr-Ramirez also highlighted the importance of students and professors promoting the display.

“Knowing that these are students and people on campus that wrote [these messages] really emphasizes the fact that we are a campus community that does not tolerate violence,” Mohr-Ramirez said.

In addition to holding the Clothesline Project event, the university’s CARE to Stop Violence office, located in the University Health Center, offers education and outreach workshops about harm-based violence prevention, a confidential domestic violence hotline and public events.

These initiatives provide hope for healing for those who have experienced power-based violence, Widener said.

For Mohr-Ramirez, these efforts to raise awareness for domestic violence and sexual assault make the Clothesline Project fulfilling.

“Every year I love the outpouring of support and just everyone stepping up and writing these messages,” Mohr-Ramirez said. “It’s absolutely powerful.”