Sexual Assault: The Roadshow art exhibit in Toronto aims to shatter taboos about victims

The creator of a travelling art gallery passing through downtown Toronto says sexual assault victims can actually overcome their trauma, even if they feel they’ve been failed by the justice system.

Exhibit on display at Nathan Phillips Square, features work from across GTHA

Lillian Allen, left, and Jane Doe, right, are the women making Sexual Assault: The Roadshow possible.

The creator of a travelling art gallery passing through downtown Toronto wants to change attitudes when it comes to how society views sexual assault, saying victims can actually overcome their trauma even if they feel they've been failed by the justice system.

Sexual Assault: The Roadshow is a travelling exhibit that features art inspired by acts of violence and is the brainchild of Jane Doe.

The exhibit, which uses a re-purposed shipping container as a venue, is currently set up in Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square.

"Women who are sexually assaulted are viewed [as] overwhelmingly traumatized, as passive and broken and as unable to take care of themselves any more," said Doe in an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

"And of course that is a false notion."

Apanaki Temitayo Minerve, left, and Mosa McNeily, right, stand next to some works of art that are part of Sexual Assault: The Roadshow (Lillian Allen/Facebook)

Doe says the goal of the travelling exhibit is to change the way people think about sexual assault, the nature of harm it creates and how victims react.

"Looking at the art in a shipping container, those notions are put down … the art that is being created is causing us to slow down, take a look and think differently about the crime," she said.

"It shows that we are more than just the acts of crime that have been committed against us. We are not victims, we are women and we live our lives and overcome."

Systems fail women and men, Doe says

This exhibit will be in Nathan Phillips Square until Sunday. (Jane Doe)

This week in Toronto, York University PhD student Mustafa Ururyar was convicted of sexually assaulting Mandi Gray in July, and was sentenced Wednesday to 18-months in prison.

Doe, who says she sat in the courtroom when Ururyar's sentence was delivered, believes prison convictions do little to fix the issue of sexual assault in society.

"Our systems now, all of them, have failed women, they've failed men also," Doe said.

"With prison sentences … there are minimal programs, if any. And the people, mostly indigenous and black and racialized men are demonized. They are treated as if they are not human and we all seem to be OK with that," she said.

Response to art has been positive

"It's been a reaction of awe, happiness, it's a relief for so many people to see the art," said Doe when talking about those who have taken the time to stop by her exhibit.

Sexual Assault: The Roadshow will be in Nathan Phillips Square, its third stop of the tour, until Sunday. 

The plan is for the exhibit to make it to 15 other stops over the next three years.

It next moves to OCAD University, from Oct. 17 to 29, then heads to Ryerson University from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5.
Jane Doe says the response from people who stop by the exhibit has been overwhelmingly positive. (Lillian Allen/Facebook)


Kenny Sharpe


Kenny Sharpe is currently reporting in Europe as part of the 2022 Arthur F. Burns Fellowship for Foreign Correspondents. Originally from Newfoundland and Labrador, he reports on daily news with a focus on the environment, mental health and politics.

With files from Metro Morning