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OU Gender + Equality Center hosts Rape Awareness Week with 'What Were You Wearing' exhibit, other events

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"What Were You Wearing?" Survivor Art Installation

A pair of jeans hangs on a clothesline on the South Oval as part of the 2018 "What Were You Wearing?" exhibit. 

The Gender + Equality Center will host an exhibit Tuesday called “What Were You Wearing” as part of Rape Awareness Week on the South Oval.

The exhibit will feature a wide variety of clothing worn by victims of sexual assault and the stories associated with them. The goal of the event is to highlight the idea that victim-blaming does not solve the issue of sexual assault, which can happen regardless of the victim’s clothing.

“This event provides a physical example of a response to an ongoing argument. The exhibit helps to solidify that sexual assault should never be a consequence of the clothes you wear,” Gender-Based Violence Prevention intern I’Jane Bennett said.

According to GEC outreach coordinator Jasmine Brown, the exhibit has been an October tradition of the GEC since 2018 as a way of giving victims of sexual assault the space to tell their story during Rape Awareness Week and Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The idea, which originated at the University of Kansas, was brought to the OU GEC by Leanne Ho, a previous intern, said Brown.

“Many colleges have also been putting on similar art displays as a way to raise awareness of sexual violence through illustrating stories shared by survivors about what they had on when they were sexually assaulted,” Brown said. “The exhibit aims to shatter the myth that sexual assault can be attributed to a person’s choice in wardrobe.”

Brown said that submissions were collected through a survey that asked participants to provide a description of their clothing at the time of their assault as well as permission to use the descriptions for the art installation. Bennett then created a list of clothing items based off of information provided through the submission survey. 

Clothing donations were then used to create installation on the South Oval. Bennett said there are about 15 submissions. 

“The intent of the installation is to show people that changing one’s clothes will not stop sexual abuse,” Bennett said. “Our hope is that it provides additional awareness about gender-based violence, prompts some conversation about the problem of victim-blaming and also provides resources to people on campus not familiar with the GEC or OU Advocates.”

"What Were You Wearing" will run from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 6 on the South Oval.

During the event, staff from the GEC and OU Advocates will be available to provide more information or support to anyone who may need it. The GEC and OU Advocates are also available to students from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“The Gender + Equality Center would like to not only bring awareness to sexual violence, but to support survivors through providing this space for them to tell their story,” Brown said.

Other events for Rape Awareness Week, which is Oct. 5–9, include Our Voice training from 5–7 p.m. Oct. 7, and Take Back the Night — a march at the Unity Garden — from 7–9 p.m. Oct. 8, according to a GEC tweet. 

Students must wear a mask and practice social distancing at all Rape Awareness Week events.

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