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OHIO to host ‘What Were You Wearing?’ exhibit; survivors invited to share their stories

OHIO to host ‘What Were You Wearing?’ exhibit; survivors invited to share their stories
Published: June 27, 2018 Author: Staff reports

Ohio University will be kicking off the fall semester with an art installation designed to share stories of sexual assault and survival while challenging the victim-blaming behavior that often accompanies these incidents of violence.

The University will host a “What Were You Wearing?” Survivor Art Installation Aug. 30 through Sept. 13 in the Trisolini Gallery on the fourth floor of Baker University Center. The exhibit is being sponsored and supported by Ohio University’s Women’s Center, the Survivor Advocacy Program, the Campus Involvement Center, the College of Fine Arts, Ambassadors to the Survivor Advocacy Program, and the Intersectional Feminist Alliance.

“As a community, we have a collective responsibility to ensure that anyone who steps on our campus knows two things: 1) Violence in any form or fashion is not tolerated; 2) We will stand as a community to stop violence. As such, we have to have these programs to help people identify common misconceptions that can prevent people from interrupting violence,” says Mat Hall, assistant director of Health Promotion.

“What Were You Wearing?” Survivor Art Installations feature descriptions of clothing that was worn when survivors were sexually assaulted accompanied by clothing, found by event organizers, that closely mirrors those descriptions or, in some cases, the actual clothing that was worn during the assault. 

The first “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit was held in 2014 at the University of Arkansas, and many have been held since at campuses throughout the United States. Inspired by Dr. Mary Simmerling’s poem, “What I Was Wearing,” and created by Jen Brockman and Dr. Mary Wyandt-Hiebert, these exhibits seek to support survivors of sexual assault while confronting the notion that what an individual wears causes sexual violence.  

“It is incredibly important that we engage in dialogue that represents the diversity of survivor experiences,” says Kim Castor, director of the Survivor Advocacy Program. “What better way than having this installation to show that what the survivor is wearing does not matter. Sexual assault is the fault of the perpetrator, and never the fault of the survivor.” 

M. Geneva Murray, director of the Women’s Center, agrees, stating: “Arts-based practice is a powerful way of communicating these experiences so that we think of sexual assault as beyond statistics and as representing actual people. This program is a continuation of our commitment to that type of communication that we saw demonstrated in The Monument Quilt display in Peden Stadium in October 2017.”

Planning for Ohio University’s “What Were You Wearing?” Survivor Art Installation is already underway with organizers inviting survivors of sexual assault to contribute to the installation by sharing what they were wearing via this online form. All members of the Ohio University and local communities may contribute their stories and may do so anonymously. Stories shared through the online form for OHIO’s “What Were You Wearing?” Survivor Art Installation will receive an exemption from mandatory reporting requirements; disclosures of incidents of sexual misconduct through this form will not be considered notice to Ohio University. The online form does include information on resources available to those who have experienced sexual violence and those who would like to report an incident.

OHIO’s “What Were You Wearing?” Survivor Art Installation can accommodate up to 42 exhibits, with 28 stories already shared for the display. Those interested in sharing their story are encouraged to fill out the online form by mid-July in order to provide event organizers enough time to source clothing to accompany each description. 

An opening for the “What Were You Wearing?” Survivor Art Installation is scheduled for the evening of Thursday, Aug. 30. Additional programming is planned to coincide and complement the exhibit. Details will be released in Compass in the coming weeks. 

For more information about Ohio University’s “What Were You Wearing?” Survivor Art Installation, please contact M. Geneva Murray at murraym2@ohio.edu or 740-593-9625.