“I can’t believe it, it could be anybody,” said Kamrun Nahar ‘23 when reflecting on her walk through the display “What Were You Wearing?” this past Monday, April 4.
This display was showcased in the “Art for Advocacy” exhibit presented through The Center for Family Justice to raise awareness of sexual assault and other forms of crime.
As reported by The Mirror last week, The Center for Family Justice partnered with the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators to host the exhibit, in light of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Crimes Victims’ Rights Week.
Outside the doors of the Oak Room in the Barone Campus Center stood two tall signs, on April 4 and 5. One acknowledged the inclusivity of both survivors and allies, as well as CFJ Campus Advocates Salaha Kabir and Geanella Suarez for the curation of the event. The other drew awareness to April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
When first walking through the doorway, individuals were presented with a table, draped in purple. On the table was an array of informative pamphlets on CFJ and resources for victims, blue and white ribbon pins, ally stickers, blue, purple and yellow bracelets, cards of artwork and more.
There was also a printed trigger-warning for sexual violence, sexual assault, abuse and other acts of crime displayed on the table to inform attendees before they walked any further.
Past the table was the display entitled “What Were You Wearing?” Several outfits hung on coat racks with laminated quotes that were shared anonymously by sexual assault vicitms, who were violated in similar or identical articles of clothing as those being displayed.
On one of the coat racks hung a men’s gray athletic T-shirt and matching gray shorts. Attached to the clothing was a quote that read, “I was wearing gray workout shorts, a shirt, and sneakers. I was at practice for a big game. He was my coach.”
On another one of the coat racks hung a navy blue polo and khaki pants. Attached to the polo was a quote that read, “My school uniform. A khaki pant and navy blue polo. They were wearing the same thing, they were my classmate.”
Nahar was moved by this display after seeing clothing that was similar to what she owns and wears.
“I own some of these dresses, which is what’s more shocking,” she says. “Someone who had the same dress. I literally have that. Someone was wearing the same [dress] as me.”
Nahar was not the only individual who was moved by this display. Sexual Violence Coordinator Nanja Raymond was similarly moved and acknowledged the importance of such a display.
“It’s really important to break the misconception of what a sexual victim looks like or how they should dress and present themselves,” Raymond said.
“When you look at what they were wearing, for me it’s like ‘Oh, I wear things like that’ …[it] could happen to me,” she said.
Another display within the exhibit was “The Unfinished Marigold” project, which recreated “The Unfinished Lives” project. This project, which CFJ recreated, encompassed shadow boxes created by Anna McGee that represent individuals who have lost their lives to domestic violence. CFJ’s recreation of the project encompasses both those who have passed, as well as those who have survived not only from domestic violence, but from other forms of crime as well.
Each shadow box was filled with objects that represented the victim or survivor. One of the shadow boxes displayed included a pink flower crown, movie ticket stubs and a pearl hair clip.
On this shadow box read, “My little girl always shined bright like a star. Loved playing dress up and putting on big hair clips to hold back her short bangs. She loved watching Disney or any animation movie on the big screen, so going to the theaters was a treat and adventure for her. She was full of life. I just wish I had more time with her, if only time would rewind.”
Other displays showcased in the exhibit were the “My Red Lips” campaign, “Through Your Lens: A Survivors’ Gallery” and Project J.U.S.T.I.C.E.”
Paintings on canvases ranging of different sizes stood at the far back of the exhibit. They were individually or collectively created by survivors and allies, varying in art mediums but all working towards the same goal of empowerment.
Many visitors of the exhibit ended their walk through at the “Bystander Intervention Pledge Wall.” At this display, a table was set up with cut out squares that read “I pledge to be an active bystander,” followed by a signature line. There was a bucket of pens for visitors to use to sign, and tape to plaster it on a large white poster board.
Pamela Paulmann, program coordinator for violence against women act grant, spoke of this end to the exhibit.
“Then finally…a call to action, which is to take a pledge,” Paulmann said.
“Everybody can do something small or large, even if you don’t have skills,” she said, “anyone can make a pledge and learn something, if they’re willing to learn and listen.”
Overall, those who attended the exhibit were moved by what they saw.
“It was sad and shocking to see these depictions of sexual assault,” said Carina Kortick ‘24 when reflecting on her overall experience, “but also important in spreading awareness of just how severe this issue is.”
Kiran Malik ‘23 expressed similar feelings when she said, “It is shocking, you would never think that a girl… her coach would do something like this to her. [These are] people that they trusted.”
The “Art for Advocacy” exhibit sought to impact those who attended and cultivate a sense of allyship and support for victims and survivors of crime, as reported by The Mirror last week.
This project was supported by a National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Community Awareness Project subgrant awarded by the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators under cooperative agreement with the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, and U.S. Department of Justice.
“If people come here and they see the clothing and hear the stories…they can empathize,” said Raymond.
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