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Clothesline Project supports sexual assault survivors in Hamilton County

In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month during April, Noblesville-based Prevail Inc. is participating in The Clothesline Project to bring healing and awareness to the Hamilton County community.

The project is part of a national effort and includes survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence or child abuse designing T-shirts with their message to the world. The shirts are then hung on clotheslines to be displayed across the city and county.

“We really want people to recognize that this is happening to our community,” said Susan Ferguson, executive director for Prevail Inc. “We hear all the time that they can’t believe that we served almost 3,500 people last year, that we have 40-50 appointments a day walking through our door. People are amazed that this kind of service is even needed. So, we want people to know this is a real thing. This really happens to real people.”

It even happened to a top executive at Prevail: assistant director Michelle Corrao.

“When you think that there is no hope or help out there and you come upon a place is a miracle. Truly is a miracle,” Corrao said.

She found healing 17 years ago as an attendee at Prevail’s support groups. She helps direct the organization to reach thousands more who have unfairly experienced trauma at the hands of others.

“I was actually abducted from my home at gunpoint by three men and taken to a remote area and was beaten and sexually assaulted,” she said, describing a 1996 incident in Fort Wayne. “And I made it out. It was a miracle that I lived through that. I was found in the trunk of my car by an off-duty detective.”

Corrao, married with two children, has taken her powerful message of healing combined with Prevail’s resources to the people of Hamilton County.

“People shut down and they don’t talk about what happened to them and I think that The Clothesline Project gives them an opportunity,” she said.

Susan Ferguson gave 24-Hour News Eight a tour of some of the 300 T-shirts displayed this year. She explained that survivors create them at the end of a 12-week recovery program as a kind of graduation statement.

“‘Love doesn’t hurt,’ ‘Consent is Sexy,’” Ferguson reads off the shirts. “We do a lot of training about consent and what that means.”

The shirts are categorized by color. Pink, orange and red shirts indicate the creator is a survivor of sexual assault. Yellow and tan shirts are for domestic violence survivors, blue and green are for victims of incest of child abuse, white represents someone who died as a result of their abuse, and purple shirts are for those targeted for assault because of their sexual orientation.

“It can be as powerful as ‘You killed me in 2008’ to ‘Look at my life now,’” Corrao said.”Seeing the good that has come out of the bad.”

Corrao said personally more good than bad has come from her assault, and she and Prevail Inc. encouraged anyone seeking help to contact their 24/7 hotline at 317-773-3472. More resources, including information about Prevail Inc.’s free support groups, can be found on their website.

You can see the Clothesline Project for yourself at the Prevail Inc. office, 1100 S. Ninth St. in Noblesville, and throughout the month of April at Noblesville City Hall, Carmel Clay Public Library, Westfield Washington Public Library and the Hamilton County Government & Judicial Center.

Other businesses are welcome to contact Prevail Inc. if they would like to participate in the project.

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