GCC exhibits “What Were You Wearing?” Art Installation

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Inspired by a poem “What I Was Wearing” by Dr. Mary Simmerling, Jen Brockman and Mary Wyandt-Hiebert created the first exhibit of “What Were You Wearing” in 2014 at the University of Arkansas. Since then, many “What Were You Wearing?” survivor art installations were developed across the US to shatter the decades-old myth that the responsibility of an assault lies in the victim. Similar victim-blaming questions, such as interrogating the victims’ alcohol consumption and their sexual history, bring shame and blame upon the victim and take the focus away from the real offenders. Such prejudices intimidate victims from reporting the assault and further feeds the rape culture. 

(Photo by Jennifer Sprague from HuffPost News) The original art exhibit “What Were You Wearing?” at the University of Kansas. 

“you see

i have been asked this question

many times

it has been called to my mind

many times

this question

this answer

these details. 

if only it were so simple

if only we could

end rape

by simply changing clothes.

i remember also

what he was wearing

that night

even though

it’s true

that no one

has ever asked.”

From “What I Was Wearing” by Mary Simmerling

On November 7th, GCC exhibited its own survivor art installation, displaying nine outfits hanging next to 9 rape survivors’ narratives about what they wore when they were assaulted. 

A long sleet shirt and Khakis. A T-shirt and jeans. A sweatsuit. A 6-year old girl’s dress. They were all there. Attendees not only see themselves reflected in the outfits “I have this similar shirt at home,” but also in the settings or contexts in which assaults took place, “a family’s friend came to visit,” “at a social gathering before entering grad school,”…

Within the exhibit were support groups and organizations at GCC and local communities: 

  • Al-Anon is a newly created peer support club for students at GCC that aids recovery for the families and friends of alcoholics. Weekly meeting will be held in room C201 every Tuesday from 12:30-1:30 pm.                                                              
  • Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (GCASA) is an alcohol and substance abuse prevention and treatment agency whose services include prevention, treatment, EAP and residential programs in Western New York.
  • GLOW Women March empower women of local, rural communities of the GLOW region to participate and rise to positions of power that create positive changes.
  • RESTORE, a program of Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York, leads the community response to sexual violence through advocacy and education, by providing the safety, support and validation that changes the lives of all those affected.
  • YWCA Genesee offers domestic violence crisis and prevention services, accessible childcare at Genesee County Family Court, and economic empowerment opportunities.
Al-Anon – new club at GCC
YWCA Genesee

More facts about domestic and sexual violence in the US:

  • October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
  • April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) – NSVRC
  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men (1).
  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime (1).
  • Only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries (1).

Sources:  

  1. https://ncadv.org/

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