Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

NMSU students share stories of abuse through interactive T-shirt exhibit

Note: This story contains descriptions of domestic violence and sexual assault. La Casa offers emergency shelter from abusers via walk-in between 8:30 am and 5:30 pm or by calling 575-526-9513. If you or someone you know experienced sexual violence, call La Piñon’s 24-Hour Crisis Hotline at 575-526-3437 or go to www.lapinon.org/contact.

LAS CRUCES – Students from New Mexico State University’s Criminal Justice Department joined in the international Clothesline Project this year, giving voice to people affected by violence.

October is nationally recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

This is the first year the department, state and local organizations and three student organizations — Humans4Humans, Alpha Phi Sigma Criminal Justice Honor Society and Criminal Justice Graduate Student Organization — took part in the project.

The idea is that people decorate different colored shirts sharing their stories of violence, be it physical, sexual or mental abuse. Others highlighted statistics about intimate partner violence, violence against the LGBTQ+ community and more.

“Something I like to talk about is I can’t change what happened to me, but I can do my part in helping others get through it, whether it’s emotionally or finding their voice themselves. I think it’s super important because not only does it bring awareness to (abuse), but it educates everyone else on how much it actually happens around them,” said Nevaeh Guevara, a student with Humans4Humans, a human trafficking awareness group.

Over 150 shirts were hung on clotheslines on the third floor of Corbett Center Student Union Thursday. They will be collected and hung once again next year — and added to. Here are what a few of the messages on the shirts stated:

“I was 9. I was 10. I was 11. I was 12. You were more than just my stepdad, you were my best friend but as I got older I learned why you kept me so close … so that I wouldn’t say anything about all the nights you came into my room. As I pretended to sleep you convinced yourself I let you. But when I found my voice you didn’t stand a chance.”

Pat Acosta column:Challenging Las Cruces community to end domestic violence

“I was sexually assaulted by a close friend on my birthday. I was drunk and sleeping in his bed while my boyfriend and the rest of my friends were playing videogames. I told my boyfriend and confronted my assaulter. My assaulter admitted to it. My boyfriend and assaulter are still friends. What do I do…? What do I say…? Is it my fault…?”

NMSU's Department of Criminal Justice presents the

“I was 13. I thought it was tough love. Instead it was abuse. Always being told I couldn’t do it or wasn’t good enough for 15 years by my own father. I’m now free. And my mental health is on the mend.”

“You’re not a victim for sharing your story. You are a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth. And you never know who needs your light, your warmth, and raging courage. ‘Imagine a day without RAPE.’”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t help you when he had you pinned against the wall. Punching and hurting you while my brother and I cried and watched. I’m sorry you couldn’t drop us off at school because you had bruises on you. I’m sorry the police didn’t do anything when he stuck his hand through the car window and started choking you while I had my sister on my lap trying to push him away. Yet somehow I was forced on a visitation because they did not believe us. I’m proud of you for leaving and saving us and yourself. I love you mom. And I’m sorry.”

“HELP ME. From 4-13, my dad abused me physically, mentally, and sexually. I never said anything (because) he threatened my mom and siblings. When I finally did, the police went over once and said he didn’t seem like the type. I’m 18 now. My dad is a successful lawyer and works with youth in his community. I’m struggling to get out of bed in the morning. My nights are haunted by his face. My 2 younger brothers and little sister did not escape with me. My mom, older sister, and stepdad live together now and we are still trying to heal after all this time. It’s hard to feel like he got away with it. The people charged with protecting me didn’t believe me. And my heart is broken.”

“I’ve always had the sensation of wondering about it all this is a dream or not. When I was around 8, we used to go to my grandma’s house to take care of her every weekend. I was sexually abused by a close relative during that time. Nowadays, I prefer to believe to those encounters were just a dream I’ll forget about one day.”

“When I was just 13, a college boy noticed me. He was in his 20s — I don’t remember exact ages. We were in a ‘relationship.’ He told me I was ‘so mature’ for my age. It took me years to realize what happened. He buried these vulnerable ideas in me. It was my fault — I consented, I spoke back. Now that I’m in my 20s, it’s difficult to picture myself as I was. Small, shy, seeking affection. I reach toward her, I hope when she looks in a mirror, she sees me.”

“I am a survivor of domestic violence. 1/1/2004 — the day I survived.”

NMSU's Department of Criminal Justice presents the

“I was only 7… when my uncle asked me to play with him… I remember I wore my pretty yellow dress… And he told me to cuddle with him… I didn’t know… I was only 7…

“I was only 17… My high school boyfriend told me he cared for me … He told me he wanted to be my first … Every time he hugged me, he touched me … I told him to stop so many times, but he didn’ t listen to me … I was only 17 …”

“Me wanting to experience college after a pandemic was not an invitation to come in. Me trying to make sure you weren’t homeless was not an excuse to come into my bed. I wish I didn’t come to college. Maybe I would have been safe.”

“To this day, I still APOLOGIZE for being too HAPPY.”

“When I was 10 at a camping trip in Boy Scouts. A scout should always be prepared. I was never prepared for what would come next…”

Others are reading:

Leah Romero is the trending reporter at the Las Cruces Sun-News and can be reached at 575-418-3442, [email protected] or @rromero_leah on Twitter.

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