A “What Were You Wearing?” museum-style exhibit will be displayed in various locations across MTSU’s campus April 2-6, kicking off Sexual Assault Awareness Month at the university.
“What Were You Wearing?” is an exhibit that displays outfits recreated from the stories of sexual assault survivors with explanations of what they were wearing when they were assaulted, said Lisa Schrader, MTSU Health Promotion director. More than 50 survivors provided stories for the exhibit.
Schrader said the exhibit’s intent is to help stop victim blaming and to end the rape myth that what a person wears invites sexual assault. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that one in three women and one in six men in the United States have experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetimes. On U.S. campuses, 20 percent to 25 percent of college women and 15 percent of college men are victims of forced sexual contact during their time in college.
The “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit will be displayed in the south lobby of MTSU’s Business and Aerospace Building, the Campus Recreation Center lobby in the Student Health, Wellness and Recreation Center, the first floor of the James E. Walker Library and the second floor of Kirksey Old Main.
An information table also will be available in the Student Union from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday, April 2-5. Some of the outfits also will be displayed on the table.
The clothing exhibit, which originated in 2013 at the University of Arkansas, was created by Jen Brockman and Dr. Mary Wyandt-Hiebert, Schrader said, adding that Dr. Mary Simmerling‘s poem “What I Was Wearing” inspired the exhibit and will be featured at each display.
“After being deeply moved by the poem, Brockman and Wyandt-Hiebert created the exhibit to end victim blaming and to reflect on what makes us ask the question ‘What were you wearing?’ in the first place,” Schrader said.
The question appears harmless to the person asking it, she added, but it places the burden of the attack on a survivor’s shoulders.
Organizers aren’t using the actual clothing from the stories because they want participants to see themselves in the displays. Instead, all the used, worn clothing included in the exhibit has been provided by campus organizations that are sponsoring one or more stories.
Sponsoring organizations include Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Omicron Pi, Blue Raider Athletics, the Campus Recreation Center, the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center, College Panhellenic, MTSU Counseling Services, MTSU Health Education Research Organization, MTSU Student Health Services, MTSU Housing and Residential Life, the Office of International Affairs, the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students, Kappa Delta, MTSU Ladies for Change, MT 316, the MTSU chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers, the MTSU chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success and the MTSU Student Government Association.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)
(Note: Health Promotion student intern Neci Jones contributed to this report.)