Clothes ranging from Christmas sweaters, combat boots and sweats are on display on the second floor of I.D. Weeks Library throughout April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, as part of a “What We Were Wearing” Exhibit hosted by PAVE.
Promoting Awareness and Victim Empowerment, or PAVE, is a national organization with a USD chapter. Alyssa Fothergill, PAVE president, said this event is powerful for viewers.
“I think it just sends a powerful message,” she said. “It shatters that stigma of, ‘What were you wearing.’ It shows that it’s not the survivor’s fault because of what they were wearing.”
Claire Litzen, a sophomore English and secondary education double major and the awareness chair for PAVE, said this event brings up the issue of victim-blaming.
“The importance of the ‘What We Were Wearing’ exhibit is to help shatter the stigma of questions that survivors are asked, such as what were you wearing, were you drinking, were drugs involved,” Litzen said. “We’re just really sharing stories. We got a lot of responses from people who were trusting us with their stories and we just want to help other people understand and educate the USD population.”
Submissions for the exhibit were taken through an anonymous Google form shared via social media, and then PAVE members worked to set up the exhibit and find clothing to match survivors’ submitted stories. Fothergill said volunteers could share anything on the form.
“It’s kind of whatever they wanted to share with us. The format they could answer that they filled out was just pretty basic like what were you wearing, so that we could replicate their outfit, and then it was just what happened to you, so then they could share as little as they wanted to or as much as they wanted to,” she said. “The stories are really original and unique in that way.”
For the rest of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, PAVE plans to host Motivation Mondays, table in the Muenster University Center and promote awareness. On April 9, the group plans to make signs in the MUC which will be displayed in front of Old Main.
“We’re going to be tabling with flags and students can dedicate a flag to a sexual assault survivor or just all survivors, and then we’re going to place those in front of Old Main,” Fothergill said. “It’s a way to show survivors that there’s people there for them and they have messages for them, they’re not alone. It just kind of unifies just survivors on campus. I think it’s just a way to honor them.”
Litzen also said PAVE events bring awareness to the fact that sexual assault isn’t just a women’s or
“I think it also brings awareness to the issue. A lot of people think it’s just a women’s issue but it’s not just a women’s issue and it’s not just a survivor’s issue,” she said. “I am not a survivor of sexual assault, but I have people who are very dear to my heart that are, and I want to be there and support them.”
Savannah Schorn, a sophomore communication sciences and disorders major and the co-vice president for PAVE, said she’s passionate about the group.
“The group is important to me because I have a lot of people in my life that are sexual assault survivors that I want to advocate for,” she said. “There’s a lot of stigma behind sexual assault survivors and just in general, and I love working on the ‘What We Were Wearing’ exhibit to show people things we’re passionate about.”
Fothergill said the group is working on programming for next semester including events like a March for Consent 5K run, collaborating with other student organizations and continuing to program with ICARE.
Video by Morgan Matzen for Coyote News.