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‘Never again’ — the T-shirt says it all

”I am beautiful. I am intelligent. I am strong. I am free. I am woman.

“I will not be a victim again!”

This is the conviction of a formerly battered woman — a woman who endured physical and emotional assaults at the hands of a violent boyfriend.

A woman who now vows, “Never again.”

Tammy Jones (name changed) is a young woman with the rest of her life ahead of her in which to live, grow and move forward. Like many domestic violence victims, it doesn’t seem possible. “Not me, not now.” Yet they eventually find themselves empowered and unable to endure the pain any longer. Something clicks in them, something drastically changes. The realization occurs that this is not their problem; they do not cause the violence they endure. No, instead, it lies in the hands of their violent partners.

Tammy celebrates her transition from victim to survivor. Her celebration is portrayed on a powerfully decorated T-shirt. Front and back are covered by a wall, each brick filled by a word, an emotion, a concept, a sentiment.

The wall is the wall of domestic violence — the wall built by her abuser to isolate and control her. She depicts her life as a victim in the bricks bearing the foul names she was called: “fat,” “whore,” “cheater” and worse; the violence she endured — the slapping, busted lips, choking, cutting, the blood; the emotions she felt — broken, sick, hate, envy, anguish; and those things that were broken — loyalty, security, family, trust.

Below the wall is a woman drowning in her tears, but breaking through that wall with her fist. The woman’s mouth is taped shut. Of course, the woman is Tammy. She is breaking free. She finishes with a powerfully commanding poem:

“Drowning in Tears

After all this time, I thought the wall would never break

With all the belittling words and the physical strikes I had to take

I build it out of anger and sadness, and filled it with my tears

There was no longer any place to breath, I was overwhelmed with fear

It felt like I was struck with sudden empowerment, I had to feel fresh air

No more feeling sympathy for myself, it was beginning to be too much to bear

Breaking the wall with my fist, I began to see the light

No more wallowing in the darkness, it was time to stand up and fight!”

Tammy’s shirt, along with many others, are a part of The Clothesline Project, a national T-shirt program depicting the stories of victims, their hurdles and their triumphs.

The project is taking place during October — Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

You can see Tammy’s shirt and others decorated by local survivors and child witnesses of domestic violence at the following locations: Goodman’s Department Store, Astara’s Boutique, Satori, Methodist Thrift Store, The Outfitter, Treasures of the Rockies, the Senior Center and the Ross Aragon Community Center.

Please call for more details or if you would like to decorate your own shirt for The Clothesline Project. We have free shirts available or you can use your own.

This project is hosted by the Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program, 264-9075.