Art installation raises awareness for sexual assault awareness month


Zoe Finley

Recreated outfits line the wall at an art installation in the Center for Visual Arts. The “What Were You Wearing” exhibit will be on display through April 14, 2023.

Zoe Finley, Reporter

“What were you wearing?”

This is one of the most common questions someone is asked after opening up about sexual assault. It puts the blame on the victim as if the assault would not have happened if the victim wore a different outfit.

The “What Were You Wearing” exhibit at the Center for the Visual Arts aims to combat this victim-blaming question.

The Kent State Center for Sexual and Relationship Violence Support Service (SRVSS) created an art installation exhibit on the Center for the Visual Arts Esplanade Gallery’s second floor. The exhibit tells nine stories of Kent State students who have experienced sexual assault.

The inspiration for Kent State’s exhibit was one of the same title first installed and shown at the University of Arkansas in 2014 by Jen Brockman and Dr. Mary Wyandt-Hiebert.

They got the idea for the exhibit from a poem by Mary Simmerling, called “What I Was Wearing.” Since then, the exhibit has been shown around campuses across the United States, bringing awareness to sexual assault and combating the stereotypes surrounding it.

Bayadir Alrehaili, a graduate student, Linda Hoeptner-Poling from the College of the Arts, Sara Hume from the Kent State University Museum and Julius Payne and Yvette Roberts from SRVSS planned and created the art installation.

Students had the opportunity to anonymously submit their stories to be told before March 15, 2023. The form is now open for the April 2024 exhibit.

Senior art education major Nicole Scialabba said they felt reassured by the exhibit.

Scialabba said it brought them a sense of comfort to see that other people have experienced sexual violence. If Scialabba could describe the exhibit in one word, it would be “sad”.”

Sophomore anthropology major Jesse Matusicky said that one word to describe how the exhibit made her feel was “angry.”

“Seeing that these people are from Kent, it shows how prevalent it is and how much of a problem it is,” Matusicky said. “I’m glad that this [exhibit] is happening.”

The exhibit will be on display until April 14, 2023.

“I think it’s nice that Kent does this to show people what’s going on,” Scialabba said. “And that there’s such a wide range of outfits and that it’s not just based on what you were wearing.”

Zoe Finley is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].