A worldwide exhibit campaign has come to Rexburg at Hemming Village. The art exhibit known as “What Were They Wearing” showcases replicas of the outfits sexual assault victims were wearing when they were assaulted. The clothes are accompanied by the victims’ stories.
Julie Leavitt, social awareness coordinator of the Family Crisis Center and one of the coordinators of the event, explained the meaning behind the exhibit in an interview with BYU-Idaho Radio.
“The whole intent of the art installation is to spread awareness about sexual assault,” Leavitt said. “To help participants understand the reality of it. There is a stigma in society that victims of sexual assault, more or less, ask for their assault based on their clothing choices.”
April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, which Leavitt said is naturally a good time to bring the exhibit to the community, especially since the Family Crisis Center has wanted to put this exhibit on for almost a year now.
According to Leavitt, the Family Crisis Center last year served 300 new victims of sexual assault. That does not include people who they were already helping. She also said in January through April the Family Crisis Center has already exceeded the total number of BYU-Idaho students they helped in 2017.
This art show uses stories from all over the country and the clothing items, which the victims describe, are all replicas. The clothing items are from the Family Crisis Center thrift store.
Leavitt said this exhibit helps provide evidence that the victim’s clothing choices have nothing to do with being assaulted.
The exhibit comes with an advisory due to the strong content and some graphic stories from victims. Leavitt said this exhibit may be an uncomfortable topic for some but it is the truth. She said the only way to help solve this problem is by having more people understand what the problem is.
“I am recognizing in the people that do come in, how difficult this is for them to digest,” Leavitt said. “It seems to be a lot of tender experiences when people come in, and whenever someone comes in and they ask about it once they leave, I’m almost at the verge of tears.”
She said another part of the installation is they want the audience members to be able to see themselves in these outfits.
Leavitt hopes with this exhibit people know how to respond, ask more and better questions without judging the victims.
“I know that this is a difficult and uncomfortable topic to not only discuss but to really wrap your mind around,” Leavitt said. “I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but we all have a role to play in ending sexual violence and the first step is education, and I would encourage everyone to take that first step.”