‘What Were You Wearing, Waco?’ exhibit to promote discussion, shatter myths about sexual violence

'What Were You Wearing, Waco?' showcases the stories of sexual assault survivors. Photo illustration by Grace Everett

By Matt Kyle | Staff Writer

It’s On Us BU will be hosting an art exhibit on Fountain Mall called “What Were You Wearing, Waco?” from April 11 to April 14. The exhibit will display outfits that people were wearing on the day they were sexually assaulted and the stories of the survivors.

Some of the outfits are recreations and others are donations of the actual clothes, but all of the outfits stem from a real incident of sexual assault. Rockwall junior and It’s On Us BU co-president Kasandra Albarran said the goal of the exhibit is to promote discussion of the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses and to disprove myths surrounding sexual assault.

“College women have a one in five chance of being sexually assaulted, while college men have a one in 16 chance of being sexually assaulted, but so rarely is sexual violence actually discussed,” Albarran said. “This exhibit is trying to push past that barrier, getting people to acknowledge the existence of sexual violence on college campuses, have important conversations and shatter that whole myth and misrepresentations of sexual violence with victim-blaming.”

Albarran said victim-blaming and the myth that the clothes someone was wearing caused them to be assaulted are harmful because they lead to underreporting of sexual assault.

“In reality, sexual assault has no other cause other than the perpetrator,” Albarran said. “A lot of that underreporting comes from victim-blaming, not believing a survivor or that survivor just being so fearful that they would be told it was their fault or shamed for what they were wearing or what they were doing on that day, that they never report their assault and they never receive justice.”

Pontotoc, Miss., sophomore and It’s On Us BU co-president Diana Gillespie said anyone who wants to submit their story can do so through a Google form link in It’s On Us BU’s Instagram bio. All submissions are anonymous.

Gillespie said the wide range of clothes displayed in the exhibit shows the falsehood of the myth that clothing choices can cause a sexual assault. She said someone’s clothing choice should not be sexualized.

“We have traditional clothes like church clothes or religious attire, or even children’s clothes,” Gillespie said. “You see pajamas, so it really gives you a snapshot into how this can be any person at any time. People associate short shorts with trying to be scandalous, but this is Texas and it’s hot, so we wear short shorts. We are not dressing for anyone else besides ourselves.”

Gillespie said these conversations are important to have in order to break misconceptions and myths and teach people important lessons regarding sexual assault.

“Baylor is one place where this kind of thing is not talked about,” Gillespie said. “[The exhibit] is not really sharing the details, so it’s not uncomfortable. And that’s something that’s really hard for It’s On Us to do, is to talk about sexual violence on campus and make it a comfortable conversation.”