The circle center at Mount St. Mary's College was awash in color last week as t-shirts pinned to clotheslines fluttered like declarative flags in the whipping wind.
"I will no longer be the victim," read one shirt in permanent marker.
"My mother was raped and as a result I was born. Sometimes I wonder if she wishes I wasn't," read another.
The messages were created by students of the Mount—victims of or witnesses to domestic violence against women—and were displayed as part of the Clothesline Project, a national initiative meant to fly in the face of violence committed against women.
Adjacent to the display sat a white tent used to give privacy to those wanting to make a shirt.
Jennifer Jordan, a psychology intern and pre-doctoral student at the Mount, stood ready to hang shirts and to provide information on domestic abuse.
"It's basically just giving a voice," Jordan told Patch. "Some people just do it to support someone they know. Some people do it to get things out, show some anger, forgiveness and moving forward."
All the different colors represent something different, Jordan said. The yellow shirts represent domestic violence, emotional and physical abuse; the blue shirts for childhood sexual abuse or incest; the red ones for people who have been raped; the white ones represent someone who has died as a result of domestic violence.
"We have a large student body of women and we're definitely trying to empower them to speak out against any kind of abuse," said Amy Rivas, a medical assistant for student health. "It was seen as taboo to speak out against any type of abuse. This is a way of letting victims vent."
This was a good way to spread the cause against domestic violence, said Jasmine Raymundo, a freshman biology pre-physical therapy major.
"With all the support and all these stories written on these t-shirts, it lets people know that this is not uncommon," said Raymundo. "People that go to this school have been victims of domestic violence."
Jessica Calderon, a sophomore healthcare policy major, was a one such victim. She said that the most important thing for other victims of abuse to remember is that it isn't their fault.
"I've done counseling to talk with someone to feel like this wasn't a problem that I had," said Calderon. "I felt dirty. I was ashamed of what had happened."
Calderon and several of her cousins were sexually abused by a family member when she was 4 years old. The abuse continued for two years until one of her cousins admitted to her parents that she was being raped. The shame Calderon felt persisted into her adolescence. She experienced bouts of depression and low self-esteem until she started attending therapy sessions and began talking about her abuse.
"We found other people that had been through the same experiences and we all found out that it wasn't our fault," said Calderon.
It's common for victims of domestic violence and rape to feel like it's their fault, said Dr. Susan Salem, director of counseling and psychological services at the Mount.
"So many women that I've seen blame themselves and there's a lot of shame associated with that," Salem told Patch. "One of our goals here today is to show that they're not alone and that all these students and the students over the years have experienced this.