Nfld. & Labrador

What were you wearing? Sex assault survivors dispel stereotypes for new exhibit

An advocacy group in Corner Brook is looking for submissions for an exhibit to challenge the notion that what an individual wears contributes to victimization.

Corner Brook project says half the first 10 submissions come from people assaulted as children

Organizers of the upcoming What Were You Wearing exhibit in Corner Brook will recreate the outfits worn by people when they were sexually assaulted. (Submitted by Victoria Jones)

A button-down shirt and yoga pants. 

Pyjamas. 

My yellow shorts and a T-shirt.

Those are some of the answers to the question, What were you wearing? — received by the advocacy group Violence Prevention West in Corner Brook.

The organization is putting together a display to challenge the idea that what an individual wore during an incident of sexual violence contributed to their victimization.

One of the stories received by organizers in Corner Brook, which will be included in an upcoming exhibit. (Submitted by Victoria Jones)

"We have all these preconceived notions and stereotypes about what a victim of sexual assault looks like, the clothing that she wears, did her clothing have a part in bringing this on?" said executive director Victoria Jones.

"Funny enough we're getting yoga pants, T-shirts, jeans, it's not at all what we would think, so we really want to slash that myth and really change some attitudes around that."

The group plans to recreate outfits based on stories submitted, or in some cases use the clothing supplied by the person who shared the story. 

Organizers in Corner Brook say they were inspired by the What Were You Wearing? exhibit held at the University of Kansas in September. (Facebook)
The organization has been spreading the word on social media, asking people to describe the clothing they were wearing, and include as much detail about the assault as they feel comfortable with.

Of the 10 submissions received by Friday, Jones said almost half describe the clothing and stories of children who were under the age of 12 when they were assaulted.

We know that people want to tell their stories ... That in itself can be very empowering.- Victoria Jones, Violence Prevention West

"That's really, really telling to us, and it's a fact that we work with all the time, is that violence against children, especially girls, is just as epidemic as violence against women."

The group will collect stories for the next couple of weeks, and while there is no date yet for the exhibit, Jones said the items will be displayed to coincide with 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, which begins on Nov. 25 and ends Dec. 10.

A story from the What Were You Wearing? art installation at the University of Kansas. (Facebook)

"This is something new and this is something innovative and a little bit sensitive," Jones told CBC Radio's Corner Brook Morning Show.

"There is a possibility that the response may be overwhelming. We know that people want to tell their stories ... That in itself can be very empowering to somebody who's been through sexual violence."   

Anyone who would like to share a story or get more information can contact Violence Prevention West at 709-634-6606 or through their Facebook page, or by email: violencepreventionwest@gmail.com. 

A container has also been placed outside the Corner Brook Women's Centre so people can drop off clothing and stories anonymously.

With files from the Corner Brook Morning Show

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