The Daily Illini

Illini Union hosts sexual assault gallery

By Samantha Boyle, Assistant Daytime News Editor

Short stories of what people were wearing when they were sexually assaulted, along with items of clothing that complement these stories, will be on display in the Illini Union Art Gallery until Sept. 27.

The “What Were You Wearing?” art exhibit opened on Thursday. Many of the featured stories in the exhibition come directly from University students and alumni who were sexual assault survivors, said Sarah Colome, director of the Women’s Resources Center, in an email.

“The aim is to center the stories of local survivors, and to shift the assumptions we have when it comes to how clothes are viewed as a part of a survivor’s narrative,” Colome said.

Once the survivor stories from the University were received, Romi Dehler, program advisor for the Illini Union Board, got clothes to go with each story.

A lot of the stories and clothes featured in the exhibit are also meant to be gender neutral, Dehler said.

The original creators want to make sure various identities and all body types are being represented, while still being aware of what the statistics are, Dehler said.

According to the press release, between 1 in 4 to 5 women and 1 in 16 men will experience sexual assault before graduation.

“It’s meant to show that these stories could be anyone,” Dehler said. “Some of these stories don’t have pronouns; it’s not clear maybe who the speaker is.”

Michael Lincoln, director of Arts for the Illini Union, said some of the stories and clothes were already prepared by the original creators of the exhibit.

The first time an exhibit like this was displayed was in Arkansas, Lincoln said. The University of Kansas then hosted the same exhibition as well.

“The people who first made (the exhibit) made it so it could be easily replicated elsewhere.” Lincoln said. “This is an exhibit that is meant to travel around.”

Colome said attending the gallery would be a great way for students to become informed about sexual violence on campus.

“The exhibition is a unique way to look at a social issue that is infectious across college campuses,” Colome said. “There is more than one way to be a change maker, and this time, we’re using art to show that.”

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