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Focus being put on preventing child abuse, sexual assault

April 6, 2013

This 2012 Clothesline Project, held in the Bishop campus Cerro Coso College Great Hall, displays T-shirts decorated by anonymous sexual assault survivors and their loved ones, who are also victimized by the abuse. T-shirt colors represent different kinds of assault and the shirts are decorated with pictures and poems, quotes and other words that represent the survivors’ experiences. Photo courtesy Wild Iris

Local crisis centers are reaching out to the public by adding awareness-raising events to their ongoing services as a part of this month’s nationwide Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Prevention Month campaigns.

In the face of pervasive sexual abuse against women, men and children, Owen Valley’s Wild Iris Crisis Centers are increasing their activities in tandem with April’s national Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

Through special trainings, events and other outreach, Wild Iris hopes to heighten awareness of how widespread and devastating these atrocities are, Director of Programs Susi Bains said.

Wild Iris joins rape crisis centers across the state in commemorating these awareness and prevention months to promote knowledge and encourage support of these issues. This year’s local theme, “It’s Time To Talk About It,” is motivating Wild Iris to host the Clothesline Project, Crisis Counselor/Educator Randi Case said.

The Clothesline Project is the central SAAPM event, “a deeply moving display of painted T-shirts” that puts the spotlight on sexual violence against children, men and especially women, Bains said “It is a vehicle for those who have been affected by violence to express their emotions.” It depicts the effect of sexual assault on survivors and their loved ones. With this type of abuse, everyone is victimized to some degree and the Clothesline Project “is intended to honor them and to “act as a memorial for victims.”

To prepare their personalized shirts for display, victims and/or their family members choose significantly colored T-shirts to decorate, Case explained. Depending on the “traumatic event,” they choose: blue or green, which symbolizes incest and assault; white, murder or death; yellow, assault or battery; black, gang rape; red, rape or sex assault; and purple, homophobic assault.

The survivor/artists decorate their shirts “with words and pictures. They write whatever they want, parts of their stories, the impact of the abuse on their lives, quotes or poems that they feel represent the events to them,” Case said.

Although current Clothesline Project T-shirts are from past years, Bains said, people are still welcome to add to the display. Materials are available to the public at the Bishop or Mammoth Wild Iris offices, weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. “It’s a very personal, moving process and we’ve found it takes time to get through the process so they have privacy. Completed shirts are anonymous and don’t have any identifying information.”

The Clothesline Project will be displayed for public viewing: from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday, April 10 at Mono Free Library, 400 Sierra Park Rd., Mammoth; during school hours Monday, April 15 at Mammoth High School, 365 Sierra Park Rd.; from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday, April 22 at Bishop City Park, off of Main Street, by the pool; and tentatively on Wednesday, May 1 at Bishop Union High School, 301 N. Fowler.

Since April is also Child Abuse Awareness Month, Wild Iris is hosting awareness trainings that focus on the issue of child sexual assault, which is a form of child abuse, Bains said. The four-hour training is named after and adapted from the award-winning Darkness to Light program. The established curriculum includes viewing a video and discussion.

The Darkness to Light training program, offered for the first time locally, is available to parents and professionals who “work with children, who are in contact with this topic … It will focus on raising awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse by educating adults about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse,” Case said.

Darkness to Light will be held from 8 a.m.-noon on Monday, April 29 at the Mono County Board of Supervisors conference, Sierra Center Mall, 452 Old Mammoth Rd., Mammoth Lakes. Interested persons can contact Wild Iris at the contact information at the end of this article.

Wild Iris staff will be on hand at all of these events to answer questions and offer confidential, personal crisis counseling if the need arises. Of course, Wild Iris regularly offers counseling on a walk-in or call-in basis.

For more information, contact Wild Iris offices at: (760) 873-6601, 396 W. Line St., Bishop; (760) 934-2491, 625 old Mammoth Rd, #201, Mammoth; (877) 873-7384 24-hour toll-free; Lone Pine satellite office, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays, 120 S. Main St, #12; or visit www.wild-iris.org.

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