2020 fall exhibit shares survivors’ stories of spaces, places in which violence occurs

Published: August 27, 2020 Author: Courtney Perrett, BSJ '20

As part of Ohio University’s efforts to bring awareness to and prevent incidents of interpersonal violence while creating a culture of support and healing for survivors, OHIO’s Women’s Center along with campus partners are launching the University’s 2020 arts-based fall exhibit.

“In This Space: Disrupted,” providing a platform for survivors to share their experiences and shedding light on the stories behind the statistics, debuted on Aug. 26 and is being held online as the University moves forward with a phased return to the Athens Campus. The exhibit is sponsored by the Women’s Center, the Survivor Advocacy Program, Health Promotion, Ohio University Art Galleries, the Geography Department, Ohio Women, and the Ohio University Alumni Association with support from Counseling and Psychological Services. 

Among undergraduate students on college campuses nationwide, more than 23 percent of women and over 5 percent of men report having experienced rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). Members of the LGBTQ+ population, including gender expansive individuals, are also significantly impacted by interpersonal violence, and exhibits like these aim to show the diversity of survivors’ experiences and identities.

“People get numb to what that means,” said Dr. M. Geneva Murray, director of the Ohio University Women’s Center.

Designed to make visible the places and spaces in which sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and harassment occur and to highlight how society can create spaces of healing, “In This Space: Disrupted” features the stories of more than a dozen survivors.

“By centering on the survivor’s experience, we’re able to help the campus community see the stories and the people behind the numbers and to have a more empathetic response,” Murray said. “In presenting those stories in a way that might challenge viewers’ biases and their own acceptance of rape culture, we hope that when people see situations where there are acts of harm, they will be more likely to intervene, being aware of the impact interpersonal violence can have on one’s life and community.”

“In This Space: Disrupted” is building upon the momentum and impact of previous fall semester arts-based exhibits, including last year’s Through the Survivors’ Lens exhibit, 2018’s “What Were You Wearing” exhibit and 2017’s Monument Quilt. The exhibits are timed to coincide with the “Red Zone,” the first six to eight weeks of fall semester when reports of sexual assault tend to spike. According to RAINN, more than 50 percent of college sexual assaults occur from August through November. 

“Exhibits such as ‘In This Space: Disrupted’ and our past survivor-centered arts exhibits are an opportunity for survivors to share their story without having the pressure of doing so in a public, identifiable manner,” Kimberly Castor, director of OHIO’s Survivor Advocacy Program, said. “Sharing stories such as these can help to disrupt the narrative that many rape myths exacerbate.”

“By having people view the exhibit, we’re hopeful it will change narratives of a singular vision of how sexual violence occurs by highlighting the diversity of survivors’ experiences and getting rid of the notion that survivor stories are all the same,” Murray said.

These exhibits have also been academic enrichment experiences for OHIO students studying the arts, who have helped set up and curate the displays, and those in the campus’ learning communities, who have also helped install the exhibits. 

To view “In This Space: Disrupted,” click here

The “In This Space: Disrupted” exhibit will be available, by request, for in-person viewing at Baker University Center’s Trisolini Gallery through Sept. 12. To make arrangements to view the exhibit, contact Courtney Kessel, director for the Ohio University Art Galleries and a faculty member in the School of Art + Design, at kesselc@ohio.edu and follow @ohiouartgallery on Twitter for updates on hours and events.

“We are grateful to the survivors who have chosen to share their stories as part of this exhibit, and we are hopeful that those who wish to learn more about interpersonal violence will interact with the exhibit and reflect on the role they can play in creating a culture of care that is free from violence,” Castor said. 

Previous fall exhibits are available online. To view 2019’s “Through the Survivors’ Lens,” click here. To view 2018’s “What Were You Wearing,” click here