Empowering victims of crime, one shirt at a time
Roughly 600 shirts dangled from the ceiling at Eugenio Maria De Hostos Community College today. They were speckled with paint and held together by wooden clips, thin strings and lots of hope. Every one of them told a story.
Too many things have happened to me like being abused by the beast, a.k.a. my father, read a beige T-shirt that bore the initials S.S. Why it got to be me? I never did anything to nobody.
It was part of the 12th annual Bronx Clothesline Project in honor of National Crime Victims Rights Week, which brought together those who have lost family members and friends to homicides, assaults and physical or emotional abuse.
Representatives of the Bronx District attorneys office and Bronx nonprofit organizations gathered in an effort to inform New York City residents about the importance of coming forth when one is a victim of violence. Brittany Ramirez, a second-year student at Hostos, said that theres a lot of violence in the Bronx and programs like The Bronx Clothesline Project empower people.In 2007, there were 130 homicides in the Bronx and 311 rapes. This year, 40 homicide cases have been reported, as well as 97 sexual assaults, according to New York Police Department statistics.
Its important for them [victims] to get their voices heard not only in the media or in the courtroom, but also in the community, said Anilda Colon, program coordinator for the Bronx County District Attorneys satellite office. She added that its important for victims and their loved ones to get an opportunity to express their feelings through art projects like The Bronx Clothesline, and not through violence.
The clothesline project began in 1990 at Cape Cod, Mass. The purpose of the program was to educate citizens about the struggles faced by domestic violence victims and their families.
In 1997, the Bronx decided to adopt a similar program with a little twist: The Bronx Project Clothesline added victims, families and friends who were affected by homicide and child abuse.
There seems to be a cycle of abuse among teens and adults who have witnessed a relative being victimized. Therefore, breaking that cycle of abuse begins with the realization that things are wrong and learning that abusive behavior is not to be tolerated, said Melissa Crossley, a domestic violence and sexual assault advocate at Helium, a community blogger organization.
Others at the event agreed with Crossley.
Carolyn Jones, director of community relations and office manager for New York States Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Bronx/Westchester) said that parents not only in the Bronx, but everywhere else must respect themselves and their children and not tolerate any kind of abuse.
Parents who are angry must not hit their children right away, Jones said, referring to the fact that some will act at the heat of moment and do something they might regret, Its bad to then hug them in apology because children then believe thats love.
Many of the writings on the shirts noted some form of resentment or hatred towards adults.
To my father: youre a loser. You are bad for me, dont ever talk to me. I am mad at you, dont ever call us, wrote a child whose intials, J.R. were inscribed on a baby-blue shirt.
-- Francis Jacobo