“What Were You Wearing” exhibit aims to spread sexual assault awareness

The+What+Were+You+Wearing%3F+exhibit+aims+to+educate+people+that+sexual+assault+can+happen+to+anyone+at+any+time%2C+no+matter+what+they+may+be+wearing.+This+photo+shows+submissions+from+previous+years%2C+ranging+from+a+dress+to+a+sweatshirt+and+sweatpants.

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The “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit aims to educate people that sexual assault can happen to anyone at any time, no matter what they may be wearing. This photo shows submissions from previous years, ranging from a dress to a sweatshirt and sweatpants.

CAROLINE CHRISTENSEN, Staff Writer

Trigger warning: This article discusses sensitive topics such as sexual assault and violence.

From sweatpants, sweatshirts, pajamas and formal dresses, the Office of Compliance Equity Management’s (OCEM) “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit showcases outfits worn by sexual assault survivors along with their stories with the purpose of educating the viewers about the pervasiveness of sexual assault and how, “the act of shedding the clothes can never provide enough peace or comfort to survivors.”

Isabella Johnson, the Sexual Assault Prevention Graduate Assistant for UNI, explains this exhibit was founded in 2013, and UNI took on the project in 2018.

“The purpose is to basically encourage viewers and the community to recognize that it was not about the clothes they were wearing,” Johnson said. “We’ve really just tried to make sure that as a community our campus recognizes that it is a problem here, and that we are taking some action to show that it is not just women, it is everyone.”

The exhibit will be showcased in April, Sexual Assault Prevention Month, in Kamerick Hall as well as six other satellite locations in other academic buildings. If one would like to submit an entry to the exhibit, visit equity.uni.edu and navigate to the “Prevention and Education” tab. Anonymous submissions are accepted.

Johnson acknowledges this exhibit may be triggering for some people, but emphasizes its significance.

“This exhibit seems abrasive to a lot of people,” Johnson said. “We understand that, but that is the point. There is going to be some children’s clothes, theater costumes and outfits that might be triggering for some individuals. The whole point is to realize you are not alone and it is happening. We need to bring the community together whether or not it is uncomfortable.”

In addition to the “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit, the Office of Equity and Compliance Management (OCEM) has been working to increase sexual assault prevention resources and support for survivors on UNI’s campus. Currently they are working with Green Dot, a sexual assault preventiveness program, and the Riverview Center, which provides free support and resources for sexual assault survivors in the Cedar Valley. Throughout the month of April, OCEM will be collaborating with student organizations to bring awareness to sexual assault, and the resources available for survivors on and off-campus.

Email [email protected] or call (319) 273-2846 for any questions regarding sexual assault resources or questions about the What Were You Wearing? exhibit.