On April 1 at 6 p.m., the interns of the Student Counseling Center will be putting on an art exhibition called, “What were you wearing?” in the Alumni Lounge.
The event will raise awareness about sexual assault, victim blaming and rape culture. According to Ashley Corwin, a Master of Social Work student, the art pieces are outfits worn by sexual assault survivors.
“We will have eight various outfits that recreate the outfits worn by real survivors of sexual assault,” Corwin said. “The outfits will be displayed throughout the week outside the Student Counseling Center.”
Events like these were inspired by the poem “What I was wearing” by Mary Simmerling.
“The (exhibit) was born out of an advocacy lens,” Corwin said. “The question, ‘What were you wearing?’ was pervasive for most survivors. To ask the question, ‘What were you wearing?’ costs the questioner nothing; there is no labor in making this statement. However, the survivor must pay dearly in not only their answer but also, in the burden of self-blame.”
According to Corwin, sexual assault is not defined by what the victim was wearing.
“The (exhibit) asks participants to understand that it was never about the clothing, and the act of shedding those clothes is never enough to bring peace or comfort to survivors,” she said. “The violation is not simply woven into the fabric of the material, it is a part of the survivor’s new narrative. If only ending sexual violence was as easy as changing our clothes. Instead, it requires all of us to evaluate what enables us as individuals and as a society to ask, ‘What were you wearing?’ in the first place.”
Corwin hopes attendees can gain a better understanding of the survivor’s experience.
“The belief that clothing or what someone was wearing causes rape is extremely damaging for both survivors and for our community,” Corwin said. “This (exhibit) allows viewers to see themselves reflected in not only the outfits, but also in the experiences of the survivors.”
Tyler Hobbs, a Master of Social Work student, hopes the exhibit will help bring an end to victim blaming and rape culture.
“We hope people take away an understanding of the leading cause of sexual assault, which is not what a survivor was wearing,” Hobbs said. “There is also hope that attendees will realize preventing sexual assault is a community effort by standing up to perpetrators.”
As April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Hobbs hopes to see SVSU and other organizations host more events combating this issue.
“I believe the entire month of April, as it is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, should be a month of events related to survivors of sexual assault,” he said. “Specifically, various RSOs, departments and upper administration of SVSU should collaborate to host a month of events to the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses, as well as provide resources to survivors.”
According to Hobbs, it’s important to support the victims of sexual assault to end victim blaming for the benefit of society.
“In the #MeToo movement, it is vital to believe an individual’s story,” Hobbs said. “Discrediting or minimizing an assault survivor’s story perpetuates rape culture and stigmatization.”