The Cocoon, BGSU host ‘What Were You Wearing?’ exhibit

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Ryan Luchene and Ryan Luchene

The Cocoon and BGSU continued the annual “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit on April 13 and 14 to provide education on sexual assault awareness and the titular victim-blaming question that has haunted sexual assault survivors for years.

The exhibit featured tables gathered in a circle with mannequins displaying different articles of clothing. Each display was diverse with what clothes were being shown, such as athletic wear, casual wear, sweaters, hoodies, sweatpants, sneakers and dresses. The articles of clothing displayed were meant to replicate what survivors told their advocate they were wearing at the time of their assault. The title of the exhibit references the victim-blaming question of “what were you wearing at the time of your assault?”

“Whether or not it was made in a victim-blaming way in mind, it communicates the idea that a survivor was the one who was at fault for being assaulted,” Annie Miner, the Cocoon’s prevention specialist, said. “So sharing the different outfits hopefully gets people thinking that it really doesn’t have anything to do with what the survivor wears.”

Each display is designated with a number corresponding with an anonymous story from a survivor of sexual assault. The stories discuss details like the time and place the assault happened, the age of the survivor and the consequences the assaulter experienced.

The personal stories and replicated clothing of the survivors is a crucial part of the exhibit, Miner said.

“It’s one thing to hear it in a presentation from a professional about survivors they worked with, but it’s a whole other thing to read their own words and hear about their experience and healing from it,” she said.

“What Were You Wearing?” is a national campaign for national sexual assault awareness month. The exhibits first started when the stories of assaults were collected from survivors at the University of Arkansas in 2013. From there, a Cocoon staff member learned of the exhibit from an email listser and decided to bring it to Wood County.

Miner said the Cocoon is fortunate to have stories from survivors and that BGSU space to house the annual exhibit.

The Cocoon is an inclusive domestic and sexual violence agency providing shelter and advocacy services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking, stalking and adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

The organization’s next event is the Clothesline Project on April 20 in BGSU’s Union Oval between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

To request services with the Cocoon or to speak with an advocate, call 419-373-1730 and pick option two. Their number is available 24/7 and offers services that include, but not limited to, children’s programming, transportation services, case management and campus-based advocacy.