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Students for Violence Prevention present “What Were They Wearing?” art installation

Pitt State organization Students for Violence Prevention (SVP) aim to educate and raise awareness about all forms of violence. They do this through various events and projects.  

On Monday, April 5, members of SVP assembled a new art installation in the Overman Student Center entitled “What Were They Wearing?”  

The installation features true accounts of victims of sexual assault as to the clothes they were wearing at the time the assault occurred. Julia Turner, senior and a current member of SVP, said there were several inspirations for the installation. 

“The “What Were You Wearing?” Survivor Art Installation originated at the University of Arkansas in  

2013,” Turner said. “Created by Jen Brockman and Dr. Mary Wyandt-Hiebert, the project was inspired by Dr. Mary Simmerling’s poem, ‘What I Was Wearing.’ The installation references a history of rape culture and victim blaming we see in cases of sexual assault. Often when an individual comes forward about a sexual assault, one of the first questions they are asked is “what were you wearing” as if their outfit choice caused the sexual assault or the assault is somehow excused by what they were wearing. The goal is to reveal to people that what someone wears is not something that causes a sexual assault or insinuates that they are ‘asking for it.”  

According to the event description on Gorilla Engage, students will be able to view the installation from now until April 16. Various outfits will be on display, each with their own story attached. 

“As you walk through the installation, you’ll notice that there are all different kinds of clothing, from jeans and a t-shirt to military uniforms and children’s clothes,” Turner said. “This collection is meant to show how the clothing choices of an individual has no correlation to whether a sexual assault occurs, and it is entirely at the fault of the perpetrator. The message is this: it doesn’t matter what you were wearing, it is not your fault.” 

Violence Prevention Graduate Assistant Megan Woodfield believes the installation disproves the idea that what someone was wearing at the time of an assault is the reason behind the assault.  

“The installation was inspired by a damaging idea that is often tossed around in the media,” Woodfield said. “The idea that what someone wears going out means that they are ‘asking for it’ with it meaning sex or to be sexually assaulted. The reality is that sexual violence has nothing to do with what a victim was wearing, how attractive they are or what they did before it happened, it has to do with another person violating them. ‘What Were You Wearing’ is an installation that’s been done in different ways all over the country with the hopes of bringing awareness to sexual violence and turning the narrative away from blaming victims.” 

Installations like this one present a unique opportunity to inform the PSU student population about the dangers of sexual assault as well as some of the misconceptions attached to the general understanding of violence. 

“I think it would be helpful for students, so they know what to wear or not to wear if they are going out by themselves,” said Chantel Shaw, sophomore in communications. “If there is no correlation, then people don’t have to worry about what they wear.” 

Ultimately, the aim of the art installation is to educate students on a topic that tends to go undiscussed in social circles, something the students might not have thought about otherwise. 

“I can’t speak for what SVP’s main goal with the exhibit is,” Woodfield said. “But I think the goal with anything that SVP puts on is to spread education, bring awareness to some very serious topics and show survivors at PSU that they aren’t alone.” 

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