Students lead UK to support victims of trauma with Clothesline Project


A UKPD officer writes a message to victims of violence in front of Whitehall on March 28, 2018. Photo provided by Emily Bonistall Postel.

Rafael Silva

In solidarity with survivors of trauma, UK students are pushing to create a culture intolerant to violent crimes.

Students enrolled in professor Emily Bonistall Postel’s Sociology 439: Victimology class hosted an event Wednesday on the White Hall Classroom Building lawn in preparation for their Clothesline Project scheduled for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. The event, which was sponsored by the UK Police Department in association with the Violence Intervention and Prevention Center, gave supporters and survivors the chance to come together, share resources and illuminate the stories of victims of violent crime.

Members of the UK community came together to write notes of support for survivors of violent crime. On April 12, the notes and t-shirts will be displayed as an art installation to validate the experiences of victims of violent crime.

“I can’t begin to explain how proud I am of my students who have chosen to plan this event— completely outside of class requirements— as a way to support survivors on campus,” said Postel, who holds a Ph.D. in sociology. “In our course, we learn about the impact of crime victimization and how isolating it can be. My students decided to plan these events because they want survivors to know that they are not alone, that we support them and that they matter.” 

UKPD Officer Samantha Hess became involved in the Clothesline Project when Postel attended Hess’ women’s self-defense class. After that meeting, Hess became involved in Postel’s class, ultimately leading to UKPD sponsoring the Clothesline Project.

“We want to show (the survivors) that we are here for them and show that we care for all of the crimes on campus, that’s what we are here for,” Hess said. “We want to show that we are personable, and we are humans and even in this uniform we have heart and we care.”

UKPD encourage survivors of violent crime to use the department’s resources.

“As a police officer, I encourage survivors to report. That helps us feel as if we have a purpose,” Hess said.

Hess said the resources that police offer can help victims “move forward.”

This year’s theme of the National Crime Victims’ Rights week, which is Expand the Circle: Reach All Victims, focuses on inclusion for victims of every crime.

The VIP Center is facilitating the t-shirt making and bringing speakers to the event while providing services to anyone who needs it.

“The VIP Center is all about supporting survivors and this event happens to also be during Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” said Director of the VIP Center Lindsey Blumenstein. “From our perspective, the fact that the students are really leading this charge is such a phenomenal thing and we want to make sure that we are doing everything that we can to support survivors.”

The notes and t-shirts at an art installation along with a program from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Jacobs Science Building courtyard on Thursday, April 12. The program will feature guest speakers Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear and UK President Eli Capilouto.