Airing society's dirty laundry

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:47

    SUSSEX COUNTY-For Nancy Mullen, the sun-splashed t-shirts waving on the clothesline outside of Sussex County Community College were personal. That wasn't necessarily the case for the other students who participated last week in the annual "Clothesline Project," a national day that draws attention to and seeks to combat domestic abuse. But they were young and single and had never had to flee their homes in the middle of the night in terror. For some of them, domestic violence is more cause than loathsome reality. But Mullen knows what it is to be a victim. She is what educational institutions call a "non-traditional" student, a euphemism for someone who goes to college in mid-life or later. Her story goes back to the 1970s, when battered wives were expected to keep silent because, "it was considered a private issue between husband and wife." "There wasn't really any protection available," she said. "I had to leave in the middle of the night with a baby and anything I could carry, because my husband threatened to kill both me and my baby." Mullen added, "Things have changed. There is more protection, but certainly not nearly enough." That's where the Clothesline Project comes in. Participants are supplied with blank white t-shirts and markers and decorate shirt with slogans of anger, of sadness and of hope. They are hung on a line like laundry, an image that harkens back to the days when doing the wash was women's work and women often exchanged information while hanging clothes out to dry. It is also symbolic of airing dirty laundry. Organizations participating in the day's activities included The Sexual Trauma Resource Center of Domestic Abuse Services, Inc., the Women's Center at Sussex County Community College, and the college's Psychology Club. Throughout the day, 45 male students signed pledges to support efforts to eliminate abuse and work to end the violence. One young student said he signed the pledge because "violence is not the answer with men or women."