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The Disability Clothesline Project is a way of breaking the silence about domestic and all forms of violence and abuse experienced by disabled people, enabling victims to give creative expression to their experiences as they use clothing as a canvas.

Disabled people experience abuse and violence at extremely high levels, but this is in effect invisible because it is not acknowledged. The Disability Clothesline Project will gather our stories and experience; it will bring the invisible into the light.

How Clotheslines Began

Clotheslines began in Hyannis MA in the USA in 1990, when women who had experienced abuse and violence got together. They wanted to help to transform the experience into something positive and to educate people about abuse and violence.

They decided to use a clothesline as their "vehicle". It had three purposes:

  • To educate society about violence and abuse and show what they were doing.
  • To honour and remember victims.
  • To help with the healing.

They used a clothesline because hanging the washing out to dry has been a traditional way that women have exchanged information. They made a clothesline from collected and decorated tee shirts and it was put on public display. Since then, the Hyannis women's initiative has been adopted for use all over the world.

About this Project and its aims

Like the women who began the clothesline project, disabled people need to break from invisibility and silence, having their experiences publicly acknowledged.

  • As disabled people are able to tell their stories, using their own clothesline community awareness and understanding of the impact of violence on disabled people is raised.
  • Disabled people can be encouraged to take action in their own lives to address the issue.
  • Change to law, policy and practice can be generated so that there is effective protection and support for those impacted.
  • A prevention message can be better promoted.

In New Zealand there are few abuse and violence services that have disability expertise. Most were set up before there was understanding of how disabled people experience violence and what their needs are. Our disability clothesline can help change that.

Colours on the clothesline

We have chosen a range of colours for the tee shirts. Each colour signifies a particular kind of abuse, rather than the type of victim.

The colours are:

white = death from violence

yellow/beige = assault

red/pink = sexual assault and incest - adults

blue = sexual assault and incest - children

green = psychological abuse

purple/lavender = hate violence, bullying

grey = financial abuse

orange = institutional abuse

These colours are a suggestion only. People are free to do something else or to use their own article of clothing. These are all welcome.

Who we are

The Disability Clothesline is a grassroots disability project run in co-operation with DCAV, the Disability Coalition against Violence. We do not provide disability. family violence or any other services.

The coalition began with DPA and the National Network of Stopping Violence Services, representing disabled people and organisations working to prevent violence. Since then other organisations have joined the informal coalition from both sectors.

The project received seed funding by a grant from the Community Assistance Fund.

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