Event raises sexual assault awareness

The “What Were You Wearing” exhibit debuted on April 1, and showcased various articles of clothing survivors of sexual assault were wearing when they were assaulted.. Vanguard Photos | Nicole Vogelpohl

On Monday, April 1, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Alumni Lounge, the “What Were You Wearing” exhibit debuted.

Four organizations from the Saginaw area provided information at the event: the Bay Area Women’s Center, the Underground Railroad, Child and Family Services and Shelterhouse. All these organizations aid victims of sexual assault.

Shawn Schutt, the prevention education coordinator from Underground Railroad, talked about the importance of ending victim blaming, and how this event helps do that.

“By asking them the question ‘what were you wearing,’ you’re taking the blame off of their perpetrator and then placing it on them,” Schutt said. “It’s never their fault.”

After Schutt finished speaking, attendees were able to look closely at the exhibit, which showcased clothes and descriptions.

“When you actually see (the clothes), you can understand it more from (the victim’s) perspective, rather than just hearing about it,” said Sarah Sarantis, a social work junior.

Each clothing display had a card on it with a quote from the survivor, answering the question “what were you wearing?” Some of the clothing displays were inspired by university students.

“My favorite yellow shirt, but I don’t know what pants I was wearing,” read one display card. “I remember being so confused and just wanting to leave my brother’s room and go back to watching cartoons.”

Some of the displays brought attention to the difference in how survivors are treated based on gender.

“A university t-shirt and cargos,” read one display card. “It’s funny; no one has ever asked me that before. They ask me if being raped means I’m gay or if I fought back or how I could let this happen to me, but never about my clothes.”

According to Sarantis, the event raised awareness about sexual assault and events similar should happen more often.

“There should always be more sexual assault awareness events on campus, for all colleges,” she said.

Jenna Mahar, a social work junior, appreciated people taking the time to come to the event.

“It made me feel good that there was a big turnout,” Mahar said. “It showed that a lot of people care or at least they’re talking about it in their classes.”

Talking about sexual assault can be a taboo subject, but Mahar hopes that one day it won’t be.

“(I was reminded) how taboo it still really is,” Mahar said. “When you’re working in the social work field, we talk about it a lot, and I forget how taboo a lot of people still think it is to talk about it.”

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