It’s On Us BU aims to debunk sexual assault myths with clothing display

It's On Us created their 'What Were You Wearing, Waco?' exhibit, featuring the outfits worn by sexual assault survivors at the time of their attack. Photo courtesy of It's On Us at Baylor

Editor’s Note: This exhibit and article may be triggering to some individuals.

By Olivia Turner | Staff Writer

Exhibited on the stage of the Bill Daniel Student Center this week was a curious display. Held up by hangers on teal-painted doors, articles of clothing hang in a semi-circle arrangement for passersby to see. The different outfits, ranging from a bikini top and shorts, to a winter coat and pants, to a child’s nightdress all seem like a peculiar display until the printed paper descriptions taped next to the clothes are read.

“As soon as I grew out of it, I never wore a princess nightgown again,” one of them reads. “Whenever I see one of those nightgowns in the store, it makes my heart hurt when I remember that there are other little kids, in princess nightgowns and Thomas the Train pajamas, that have been through one of the worst things that can happen to a person.”

Put on by It’s On Us BU from Monday to Thursday, this exhibit titled “What Were You Wearing, Waco?” displayed and described the outfits worn by victims of sexual violence at the time when they were assaulted. Former president of the group, Heath senior Kasandra Albarran, said It’s On Us is an organization which aims to start conversations about sexual violence on campus and that the display helps to debunk the concept of victim-blaming while educating Baylor students on what qualifies as sexual violence.

According to current president, Chicago sophomore Rishika Talluri, the members used clothes from Albarran’s own closet and from Goodwill to replicate descriptions of outifts that victims send in when telling their stories. It’s rare they ever received an original outfit from a victim for the display, because most victims turn them into the police after reporting the assault as evidence or throw it away because it reminds them of what happened to them, Talluri said.

“When you see the clothes that they talk about, you realize that it’s really a daily occurrence,” Talluri said.

In order to gather victims’ stories, Talluri said an anonymous Google form was created and posted on the group’s social media platforms. She said that although she is not sure where the stories come from, they could be those of students, community members, prospective students or really anyone who sees them on social media. Talluri said the anonymity is preserved to protect the identities of the students and to give victims more courage to come forward with their stories.

Going through victims’ stories has not only helped Talluri to realize how many people experience assault, but also how many people likely haven’t told their stories yet. Albrarran said unfortunately, assaults occur more often than most are willing to admit, with one in four women and one in six men experiencing assault in their lifetime.

“Typically, it’s a topic that’s kind of just swept under the rug, or it just kind of seems too taboo to talk about,” Albarran said.

Additionally, the most likely age for a woman to be assaulted is during her college years, from ages 18-24, Albarran said. For this reason, it is significant to raise awareness about sexual violence on college campuses, she said.

“It’s not the survivor’s fault, ever,” she said. “Whether they’re aware of that being sexual violence or not, whether they laughed about it once and now they realize it’s not okay, it’s up to us as a community to educate on another and make each other aware of what is sexual violence or not.”

Throughout the year, It’s On Us BU also puts on several other events to raise awareness and educate students. In October, domestic violence awareness month, the group puts on Christmas in October, an event which features a Christmas tree with ornaments on which statistics, support, and resources have been painted.

Last year, they partnered with Alpha Chi Omega for Denim Day, which occurred on Wednesday. It’s On Us BU has also partnered with organizations like Global Health Student Network for “What Were You Wearing?” and Advocacy Center Waco for a bake sale they have done in the past.

Albarran said she encourages Baylor to continue to highlight the prevalence of sexual violence year-round instead of limiting the topic to April only. Those who are interested in joining It’s On Us BU are welcome to join at any time, and that anyone is welcome, she said.