What were you wearing: art exhibit aims to end sexual assault stereotypes

Bedford junior Sandra Miruka views Baylor's It's On Us art exhibit aimed at ending the stereotype that sexual assault is caused by clothes. josh Aguirre | Multimedia Editor

By Madalyn Watson | Staff Writer

The art exhibit that aims to end the myth that sexual assault is caused by clothes called, “What were you wearing, Waco?” returned to campus this week. The exhibit will continue to move around Baylor’s campus throughout April, sexual assault awareness month.

This week the exhibit, created by Baylor It’s On Us, was displayed in the Bill Daniel Student Center near Common Grounds, but it will move to Fountain Mall the week of April 8 to 11.

Houston junior Sofie Harnandez-Simeonidis, the event coordinator for Baylor’s chapter of It’s On Us, said the art installation aims to change people’s misconstrued perceptions of sexual assault as well as the survivors of sexual assault.

“I think the overall goal is to dismantle the idea that sexual assault comes from the victim, and that is the victim’s fault for what they were wearing,” Hernandez-Simeonidis said.

The exhibit will also be in the Barfield Drawing Room during Dr Pepper Hour on April 23 as well as Common Grounds on April 24 for open mic night.

“The exhibit shows that it doesn’t matter what they were wearing, because the only person that could be really put to blame for the assault is the assailant,” Hernandez-Simeonidis said.

The exhibit features the clothing that survivors were wearing when they were assaulted as well as recreations of their outfits, pinned to doors that are mostly painted teal, the color for sexual assault awareness.

San Antonio senior Paige Hardy, the president and campus organizer for Baylor’s chapter of It’s On Us, said that there is no stereotype that victims fall into.

“There’s this common trope that the type of person who is sexually assaulted is a girl at a party in a skimpy dress. And we really learn through these stories that the type of people who are assaulted are the people you see on the street. And it’s children, mothers and grandmothers, and it’s men, women, it’s college students, it’s people in the military,” Hardy said.

The goal of the exhibit is two-fold. In addition to helping with education and awareness, Hardy said that it gives victims a platform to tell their stories.

“One of the things about this exhibit that we really loved is that it allows people to tell their story in whatever way they want it without anybody asking uncomfortable questions afterwards and without even having to give their name,” Hardy said.

Hardy said, although the #Metoo movement gave sexual assault survivors the ability to share as much or as little of their story as possible, it did not allow them the anonymity that the “What were you wearing, Waco?” exhibit allows.

“I think it also gives [survivors] a platform to have a voice, but they don’t necessarily want to reveal who they are. It’s a form of expression, and I think it’s also a form of relief,” Hernandez-Simeonidis said.

About half of the clothing items displayed in the exhibit are the actual clothes that people were assaulted in and donated and the other half are recreations.

“We took a few of the stories from last year to try to keep accurate diversity, but we also took some of the stories from last year that weren’t in the exhibit that were given to us,” Hardy said. “We added probably about 10 or 11 completely new stories.”

Hardy said that learning others’ stories was difficult when she has a story of her own.

“It’s difficult to learn the stories, obviously, but as a survivor of sexual violence myself, I get a lot of personal healing from knowing that I’m not alone,” Hardy said.

Hardy said that knowing someone who had also been assaulted helped her because they were able to understand where she is coming from.

“Instead of trying to give me these solutions, or asking these questions, like, ‘What were you wearing? What were you drinking? Why were you hanging out with these people?’, she was able to just sit with me in my pain and say, I understand, I know how it feels,” Hardy said.

Hardy said she hopes that the exhibit can help other victims realize that they are not alone.

If students are interested in the work that Baylor’s It’s On Us chapter is doing, their Twitter and Instagram are @itsonusbu.