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The Antelope

The Antelope

What were you wearing? Sexual assault installation gives voice to survivors

YEJIN KANG / ANTELOPE STAFF UNK student Claire Nash stops at the “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit designed to end the stigma placed upon the clothing of sexual assault victims.

The poem “What I Was Wearing”, written by Dr. Mary Simmerling, has inspired an art exhibit that was displayed in the Student Union Atrium Glass Room Oct. 25-29.

The exhibit featured recreated outfits worn by student survivors of sexual assault that pose the statement that clothing has nothing to do with who falls victim to sexual assault.

“If only it were so simple. If only we could end rape by simply changing clothes,” reads Simmerling’s poem. 

Dr. Mary Wyandt and Jen Brockman, the founders of the installation, want to change the narrative from asking victims “What Were You Wearing?” to asking communities what can be done to protect others.

Wyandt and Brockman started the installation in 2013, in hopes of ending the stigma about the correlation between sexual assault and clothing. They also wanted to diminish the shame that survivors feel when asked the question. 

“Often times the first question victims of sexual assault hear is ‘Well, what were you wearing?’ said Luis Olivas, the director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “The installation is showing people that it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing and an article of clothing doesn’t give consent. This is especially prevalent this week with Halloween, and it’s typical for people to have more provocative clothing. Still, the provocative clothing isn’t giving consent, and it isn’t showing that you’re more willing to give consent.”

The exhibit was hosted by ODI, which is on the east side of the Nebraska Student Union. This is the second year UNK has featured the exhibit, however, this year there was a new feature. 

On the exhibit was a QR code that victims of sexual assault could scan and share their story of abuse. They could choose whether they wanted their story to stay anonymous, and they could also choose whether or not they wanted people to see their story, which would get featured in next year’s exhibit. This gives victims the opportunity to share their stories and participate in the healing process.

“It was both really cool and really sad to see the installation,” said Macquel Melroy, a UNK student. “It is very eye opening to say the least.”

UNK offers various resources when it comes to student health and safety. Students are encouraged to reach out if in need. 

Students who are victims of sexual assault can contact confidential resources such as the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center at 308-865-8751 or UNK Student Health and Counseling at either their main line at 308-865-8218 or through the 24-hour crisis line at 308-865-8248. 

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