SALT LAKE CITY — From a distance they appear to only be ragged T-shirts on a clothesline.
But when viewed up close, it's clear the shirts carry powerful messages.
In the rotunda of the state Capitol on Monday, advocates for stopping domestic violence displayed The Clothesline Project. More than 100 shirts were hung on clotheslines around the rotunda. On each shirt was a message written by a victim of domestic or sexual violence expressing their feelings about the experience.
One shirt has a hole cut out in the stomach with the words "This hole is where my child should have been" written around the edge. Another has the words, "I drank, I let you in my room, I said no, so it's my fault, right?"
Some of the shirts had long stories written on them. Others had messages that were more to the point. Some of those messages included, "You betrayed me," "You stole my best friend, He was only 7," and "Pray 4 Cami to get protection."
According to a 2010 study from the Utah Department of Health, the state averages one domestic violence homicide every month. Nearly one in three Utah women will experience some sort of sexual violence during their lives.
Two bills before the Legislature this session deal with domestic violence. HB315 proposes protective orders in dating relationships, while HB410, titled Informed Consent in Domestic Cases, has yet to be drafted.
During a press conference Monday in the rotunda, AshLee Bambrough, 23, talked about her experience of being pushed out of a vehicle traveling 65 mph. Her former boyfriend was charged with kidnapping and aggravated assault, both second-degree felonies with domestic violence enhancers.
"I refuse to be his victim," she said, encouraging all victims of domestic violence to know that help is available for them.
Since the Deseret News first interviewed Bambrough in December, she said she has been making progress and is now able to drive with some supervision. Monday, AshLee still hid her left hand under her long sleeve and her long hair covered the scars on her forehead. But to an outside observer who did not know her story, it was not apparent what she had been through.
With every high-profile case, the Utah Domestic Violence Council said it receives an increase in calls of people wanting to report domestic violence incidents.
With the recent events surrounding Josh Powell, Katie Sutton with the Domestic Violence Council said her office had not noticed an increase in the number of cases being reported, but had noticed a shift in the type of calls their office received.
Several people, she said, had called saying they saw in the media the story of Josh Powell — suspected in the disappearance of his wife Susan Cox Powell two years ago and who killed who two young sons at their Washington house a week ago — and called the domestic violence hotline to report that they were experiencing some of the things being discussed in the Powell case prior to the tragic fire.
"They say, 'This looks like something, how do I get help?'" Sutton said.
People seeking help for themselves or someone they know for domestic violence can call the Utah Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465), or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
E-mail: [email protected]