Domestic violence is an issue that often remains hidden behind closed doors, but it is time to “air the dirty laundry” about the subject.
That’s the message behind the Haven Society’s visual art campaign called the Clothesline Project, which encourages individuals to speak up for victims of domestic violence by writing messages on pieces of clothing that are hung on clotheslines throughout Nanaimo.
Dawn Clark, housing manager with the Haven Society, said the project is all about bringing the community together to raise awareness about an issue often not talked about.
“What we’ve done is invite community partners as well as interested community members to speak out against violence,” she said. “The way we thought that would be most effective was to develop a clothesline. Airing our dirty laundry, basically speaking … not being ashamed to speak up about violence against women and domestic violence.”
The project, which runs until Dec. 10, is a partnership between the Haven Society and multiple organizations in Nanaimo, including the Boys and Girls Club of Vancouver Island, Nanaimo Women’s Resource Centre, Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre and Vancouver Island University. “We just want people to be aware that this is an issue in our community,” Clark said.
Domestic violence continues to be something that many women, as well as men, deal with in Nanaimo, according to Clark, who said the Haven Society helps more than 4,000 women who have been in abusive relationships per year.
“We have a transition house that probably runs at capacity, I would say, about 90 per cent of the time,” she said. “We also have a safe house in Parksville that always has residents in the house.”Clark said more people are using the Haven Society’s service than in previous years. She said there are a multiple reasons for the increases, but believes part of it is due to the organization’s presence in the community.
“There are a lot of factors. People know that we are here and I think people trust the agency and the services that we provide and that women [want]. We are better known and people want to access the services.”
Clark explained that relationship abuse comes in many forms that aren’t always violent.
“Sometimes people can have a narrow view of what domestic violence is,” she said. “They look at it as being physical, but there is financial, there is emotional, there is psychological. There are several different forms of abuse and abuse is very layered.”Education is an important tool in preventing and recognizing domestic violence or signs of abusive relationships. There are various organization outreach programs are going into schools and teaching children about healthy relationships, but Clark said education needs to start at home.
“I think it starts at home,” she said. “I think that we all have a certain responsibility to model healthy relationships to our kids.”For more information on the Clothesline Project and how to create a message, please visit www.havensociety.com/clothesline-project/