JAG, Teens for Change collaborate for Clothesline Project

Fifty-nine white T-shirts whipped in the wind on a cold, blustery Monday morning.

Seymour High School students helped hang the shirts on a makeshift clothesline on the west end of the fence at Bulleit Stadium along Community Drive.

While their hands and face were numb from the cold, it was nothing compared to what was endured by the people whose names were handwritten on the shirts.

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From July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, those 59 Hoosiers — ranging in age from 2½ months to 84 — died as a result of domestic violence. That included eight children age 2½ months to 17 years.

The school’s Teens for Change ambassadors teamed with the nearly 70 students in the two Jobs for America’s Graduates programs to create the shirts to visually draw attention to the extent of domestic violence in Indiana. They also made 59 paper shirts to hang on the bulletin board in the cafeteria.

“Domestic violence is not isolated to Indiana,” said senior Sierra Perry, president of one of the JAG programs. “Nationally, 20 people are physically abused each minute. That equals 10 million people a year.”

She and senior Daniela Vasquez, president of the bilingual JAG program, took turns speaking at the beginning of Monday’s ceremony.

Perry also shared how the Clothesline Project came about.

“It began in 1990 when members of the Cape Cod Women’s Defense Agenda learned that during the Vietnam War years, when 58,000 American soldiers were killed, at the same time, 51,000 women in the U.S. were killed by domestic violence,” Perry said.

They then asked those attending the ceremony to recite a pledge to stand up against domestic violence in all forms:

”I pledge to take action against domestic violence by choosing not to remain silent. Instead, I will speak up for those in my neighborhood, family, work or school who are victims of abuse. I will create a peaceful and safe environment in my home and will not raise my hand in violence nor my voice in anger. By living this pledge, I am joining with others to end violence in my home and community.”

Senior Paige Underwood and junior Emma Speer were among the JAG students helping hang shirts outside.

“It’s good that we’re getting out there and it’s being promoted to stop the domestic violence and the abuse, but it’s also really scary to see how many kids and how many adults have died because of that,” Underwood said.

“We shouldn’t have to try to stop it because it shouldn’t be a thing at all,” Speer said.

As people see the shirts, Speer wants them to realize domestic violence exists.

“It does happen and it could be happening to kids or students or adults within the school, and it’s scary,” she said. “I think a lot of people that are abused don’t say anything because they feel like nobody cares in the first place because the people who are abusing them don’t care.”

If you see or hear about violence or abuse, speak up, she said.

“It could literally be happening to your best friend and you not know about it,” Speer said. “If someone tells you that they are being abused, don’t keep quiet about that. Say something about it.”

Underwood said students should know they can talk to counselors, school resource officers, teachers or administrators if they are being victimized.

“There are so many resources within this school,” she said. “I don’t think kids realize how many resources that they have within this school building.”

Freshman Rhea Ann Dacayo, an ambassador with Teens for Change, said it’s important to have a buddy system.

“Because most of us are scared to speak up to someone who is an adult — counselors or teachers. We would rather speak with someone our age because it’s better that way,” she said. “Sometimes, people are also scared to speak up because people judge them and not a lot of people understand.”

Growing up in the Philippines, Dacayo heard a lot about domestic violence. She said it is “way worse” there compared to the United States.

“We have a lot of domestic violence going on (in the Philippines), but it’s silent. No one speaks about it because no one would believe you,” said Dacayo, who has lived in the United States for five years.

“I thought that moving here, it would all be gone and all of the thoughts and feelings about domestic violence would all be gone, but thinking about it, it’s not going to go anywhere,” she said. “It’s going to stay here.”

As Teens 4 Change ambassadors, though, Dacayo and others involved are doing what they can to prevent someone from becoming a victim of domestic violence.

Before spring break, the organization plans to again team with JAG for a presentation about safety and how to be safe when encouraging others. It will be at the Jackson County Public Library in Seymour.

“We will be doing a slideshow and inviting people to listen to what we have for them for safety,” Dacayo said.

The Clothesline Project was a way to begin awareness of domestic violence, and the presentation will continue that effort, she said.

As she helped hang T-shirts on Monday, Dacayo said she thought about victims she knew personally.

“I was thinking about the past, thinking about my friends who have been through that stuff,” she said. “I love listening to people’s stories and I love being there for them, and for me to take all of their stories in, it just goes around in my head. It’s like constellations. There are too many.”

Realizing domestic violence happens to people her age is difficult to comprehend, Dacayo said.

“It’s traumatizing,” she said. “Because at our age, all we want to think about is high school, boyfriends, having fun, cellphones, Snapchat. But for someone to go through that depressing stage is not amazing because not everyone understands it and people make fun of you for having PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or having anxiety because of what you’ve been through.”

When she helped write on one of the shirts, Speer said she wanted to know how they died, so she researched online.

“The story was so sad,” she said. “It was overwhelming because people shouldn’t die because of their significant other or a family member because those are people that you should be able to trust.”

Celeste Bowman, one of the JAG specialists at Seymour High School, said she was shocked to see the number of deaths from domestic violence in a year in Indiana.

She shared that fact with her junior class Monday morning as they talked about the Clothesline Project.

“We were talking about how we as parents, maybe some of us don’t do a good job teaching our children how to deal with anger issues,” she said. “Getting angry, how do we successfully deal with conflict resolution, how do we successfully deal with being angry without becoming violent, without being physically, verbally, emotionally abusive or violent?”

Now, the students are researching anger management and conflict resolution.

“It’s just something for them to learn more about it,” Bowman said.

She said she’s proud of the JAG programs for working with Charlotte Moss of Turning Point Domestic Violence Services to make the shirts, plan Monday’s ceremony and create the display in the cafeteria.

“This was all these students,” Bowman said. “Just to see them come together and take a stand has been really a neat experience.”

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Jobs for America’s Graduates is a state-based national nonprofit organization that helps high school students who have experienced challenging or traumatic life experiences achieve success through graduation. The workforce preparation program helps them learn in-demand employability skills and provides a bridge to postsecondary education and career advancement opportunities.

Teens for Change is a group that focuses on raising awareness about domestic violence and teen dating violence.