Photos and story by Bailey Wilson / Contributing Writer
The MTSU Health Education Research Program and other sponsors are hosting “What Were You Wearing?” exhibits in four locations on campus to kick off Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The exhibits opened on Monday, April 2 and will stay open until Friday, April 6.
The Business and Aerospace Building south lobby, the first floor of the James E. Walker Library, the Health, Wellness and Recreation Center lobby and the second floor of the Kirksey Old Main Building host displays of outfits collected by sponsors, which are clubs, organizations and departments that have donated clothes to the exhibits. The outfits were put together based on stories from 51 anonymous sexual assault survivors.
“One goal would be to challenge the mistaken belief that what a person chooses to wear somehow invites sexual assault,” said Lisa Schrader, the director of the Health Education Program. “Once (students) see the display and recognize there is no theme in the clothing, they can come away with the new understanding that the clothes really have nothing to do with the assault at all.”
The intent of the exhibits is to raise awareness of victim blaming. The first “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit was put together by Jen Brockman and Mary Wyandt-Hiebert at the University of Arkansas in 2013. The exhibit was inspired by the poem, “What I Was Wearing,” by Mary Simmerling, which is featured at every display at MTSU.
“The second goal is that people that view the displays will see themselves in the clothing,” Schrader said. “So even though that story may not be theirs, they can picture themselves wearing something similar and recognize the humanity of all of the survivors whose story is represented here.”
The clothing donated were not worn by the survivors themselves. The items were donated by the sponsors, and some of the clothing items have been personalized to the campus. For example, one story has a sweatshirt in it, and the sweatshirt is an MTSU sweatshirt.
“I would say the biggest challenge was figuring out the best way to display the clothing,” Schrader said. “We had to take into mind things like we didn’t want to block foot traffic … I’m happy with the result … This has surpassed my expectation.”
In some locations, three-dimensional mannequins have been dressed in outfits, and in others, clothing is pinned onto black drapes for the display. In future displays, color drapes will be added so dark colored clothing will stand out.
“This is probably the one project that I feel like has had more student collaboration, more departmental collaboration and just overall positive interest of any that I have had the privilege of working with,” Schrader said.
The campus sponsors of the exhibits include Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Omicron Pi, Blue Raider Athletics, the Campus Recreation Center, the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center, the MTSU Panhellenic Council, Counseling Services, the MTSU Health Education Research Organization, Health Services, Housing and Residential Life, International Affairs, the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students, Kappa Delta, Ladies for Change, MT 316, the National Association of Black Social Workers, the National Society of Leadership and Success and the Student Government Association.
“It is my hope that it’s not just a one-time thing,” Schrader said. “I also have a vision to include MTSU specific stories … We’re asking current survivors, survivors here at MTSU, to be willing to submit their response to the question, ‘What were you wearing?’”
MTSU students who wish to submit a story for future displays are being asked to submit it anonymously by text message. Students can text the code 249310 with their response to the question and send it to the number 37607. There is no service charge for the text message.
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