Nanaimo Haven Society has launched its Clothesline Project, where people can write messages about domestic violence on clothing to raise awareness and take a stand. Chantal Lambert, resource development and communications manager for Haven Society, hangs one of the society’s T-shirts on the line. TAMARA CUNNINGHAM/News Bulletin

Nanaimo urged to speak out against domestic violence

Clothesline Project launched as part of 16 Days of Activism

Nanaimo groups are counting on clotheslines to help expose the issue of domestic violence.

The Clothesline Project has been launched at Nanaimo Haven Society, which wants to use the visual arts campaign to get people to speak out and speak against about violence against women.

The project, which sees people scrawl messages about violence on clothing and sheets and pin them to lines, began last Friday in partnership with groups like Vancouver Island University Faculty Association, Island Crisis Care Society and Nanaimo Family Life Association which also have clotheslines. It also coincides with the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign that runs from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25 to Human Rights Day on Dec. 10.

It’s about taking a stand, says Anne Taylor, executive director of the Haven Society.

The World Health Organization estimates one in three women worldwide will have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime and 362,000 children in Canada are exposed to domestic violence every year, according to the report Behind Closed Doors: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children.

The Haven Society itself has seen crisis calls increase by 53 per cent since 2014, which Taylor said speaks volumes to the increase in those reaching out for help and who want to address the reality of violence.

“People are often told keep things behind closed doors, it’s family business, a lot of those attitudes are still around and it’s why violence continues to happen behind closed doors,” she said. “It’s time to stand up and speak out about violence that is happening behind closed doors all over our community; whether we see it or not, it’s occurring.”

The City of Nanaimo has proclaimed Nov. 25-Dec. 10 Unite to End Violence Against Women days, and there are events happening at VIU, such as a drive to raise money and collect items for Nanaimo Women’s Centre, a vigil for women killed in 1989 at École Polytechnique and a feminist embroidery gathering. People will also tie red ribbons onto one of the campus staircases in honour of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

The events are put on by VIU students’ union, the faculty association and ResTide and brought to the university because of the campus diversity and because it serves the community, according to Melissa Stephens, VIU Faculty Association Status of Women chairwoman.

“We have to be a part of that community and understand that we’re not just about women’s advocacy in an academic way, we’re about advocacy in a practical way,” she said, adding she thinks students and faculty don’t want to feel like they are in a snow globe where they are just studying or thinking about these issues. “The most important thing, I think, is to look at the community that you live in and see what’s happening.”

She said people are thinking a lot about it, especially because of #MeToo, a social media movement that’s seen women speak out about sexual harassment and assault.

“We live in a time where we are being asked to consider how we personally have been impacted by it, so it’s a sensitive time. I think people are reacting in a sensitive way, but want to do something. They feel like they need to mobilize because it’s got a global as well as local sort of connection.”

For more information about the clothesline project visit and for a schedule of VIU events,

16 Days of Activism at VIU

Nov. 29-30 and Dec. 1 Thrive Drive

Drop off new or gently used coats, jackets, towels blankets, backpacks, scarves and shoes for Nanaimo Women’s Centre at the VIU Students’ Union office between 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Nov. 29-30 or at Bldg 340, office 234 on Dec. 1

Dec. 6 Vigil for École Polytechnique

Meet at the clothesline project, in the upper quad, at 2:30 p.m. to join a march to the campus memorial for the Montreal massacre of women that happened Dec. 6, 1989. There will be a brief vigil to remember and honour these women.

Dec. 6 Feminist embroidery gathering

There will be a feminist embroidery gathering at Building 355, Room 211. Supplies are provided or bring your own and help collaborate on a project that will be displayed at the VIU library. Light snacks and tea will be provided.

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