Students at Lewis and Clark Community College (L&C) recently set out to tell untold stories and present facts in the hopes of busting the myths of rape culture.
The “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit was an installation of information and outfits people were wearing when they were sexually assaulted. The clothing was put on metal human-shaped frames with mirrors for faces.
The exhibit ran from Dec. 9 through 19 on L&C’s Godfrey Campus with an exhibit opening on Monday, Dec. 9. The purpose of the exhibit was to diminish the false belief that what someone is wearing causes rape, to help end rape culture and to also stress the importance of consent.
“It is unfortunate that we have to have an exhibit like this to bring attention to a myth that is so prevalent and so demeaning to rape survivors. The faculty and students who addressed this issue for us did a great job of grabbing our emotions as well as our minds. Excellent,” said L&C Director of Career and Veteran Services Terry Lane.
YouthBuild students also attended the exhibit opening.
“I thought it was very well put together, and the scene was set perfectly. It was disturbing to read the stories, but very educational. I believe in the word they were trying to spread and hope that eventually we can end rape culture,” said Makkasia Sledge, a YouthBuild student.
This exhibit was a project of Business English and Science of Happiness Professor Chrissie Chapman’s English 137 class and Welding Coordinator Travis Jumper’s welding class, in collaboration with other instructors, staff members and students.
“This was a powerful exhibit that illustrated that rape is not caused by what the victim/survivor is wearing,” Chapman said. “This question, ‘What were you wearing?’ is often asked of rape victims, and it is a way of blaming and shaming the victim. It is important that we use our words carefully, and the blame and shame of rape falls squarely on the shoulders of those who perpetrate those crimes. We also focused our exhibit on what we can do to stop rape culture, which is a culture where rape and demeaning words and actions to women are normalized.”
The exhibit included numerous posters asking men and others “Don’t just stand by. Stand up,” with different scenarios depicted by students who volunteered for this project.
The scenarios ranged from what people should say if a person is harassing someone in the hallway, or using “locker room banter” to demean women, or trying to get a woman drunk at a bar to take advantage of her.
“The idea behind this campaign was to give students the words to use to combat rape culture and to take care of one another,” Chapman said. “Another part of this exhibit was the focus on the need for on-going, mutual consent.”
Consent is reversible. Someone can change their mind at any time during a sexual encounter. Consenting to kissing does not automatically mean one consents to going any further. The exhibit also noted that when intoxicated, an individual cannot legally consent to sexual activity.
“What impressed me the most was to see all of these students who came to this class and this project with different backgrounds work so well together,” Chapman said. “They utilized their individual strengths, their energy, intelligence and their talents to work together to create something that was better than anything we could have created alone. Watching them blossom this semester was really wonderful for me as a teacher.”
The students found the experience rewarding, as well.
“What I liked about this was that we got to get to know each other as colleagues working on a project from our different individual perspectives,” English 137 student Paige Lemasson said. “We were able to do school work that was also advocacy work that helped other people. This was a very powerful experience, and I am really proud of the work that we were able to do together as a team.”
The students wanted to help educate others about sexual assault and what everyone can do to help prevent it.
“It was important to show that this can happen to anyone,” L&C student Charlotte Jackson said. “Anyone can be taken advantage of. Hearing the stories and seeing our own faces in the mirrors really brought this home.”
Rape culture is prevalent in a society when rape is accepted as normal, the experiences of survivors of sexual violence are devalued and the actions of the perpetrators are supported through individual, social and institutional channels. Students of Chapman’s class had some advice for the survivors of rape.
“Don’t be afraid to speak up, we have a very supportive campus here at Lewis and Clark,” the class said in a statement. “It’s not your fault, and if anyone tells you that it is your fault, it isn’t. Call out behavior in your daily life. Especially when you see it, speak up.”
Students had suggestions for continuing the work of the temporary exhibit, like having monthly meetings, support groups to talk with one another and having a student crisis hotline for texting that’s nationwide. They also thought L&C needs safe spaces, more counselors, student liaisons and more supportive exhibits like this that help marginalized groups.
L&C has two Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors: Terri Austin and Renee Bauer.
“The ‘What Were You Wearing?’ exhibit was a very powerful example of the impact of sexual assault,” Transition Counselor Terri Austin said. “It was both a view into the world of survivors, as well as a call to action to combat rape culture and sexual violence.”
Austin can be reached by phone at 618-468-4157, and her office location is Baldwin 3436. She is also located at the Scott Bibb Center.
“Over the years as a counselor at Lewis and Clark, I have seen many students who are rape survivors,” L&C Counselor Rene Bauer said. “My experience has taught me to always believe someone who says he or she has been sexually assaulted… The exhibit was beyond informational and educational. It was daunting and even haunting, and it moved the soul. The momentum has begun on the Lewis and Clark campus, and anyone who has seen the exhibit will take it into the community and beyond.”
Counseling services are available on campus with Bauer. Students may make an appointment or just walk-in if they are having a crisis. Her hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Visits are confidential and free of charge to students, faculty and staff. To receive services, visit the Student Development and Counseling office in Caldwell 2320 or call the division assistant, Barbara Cadle at 618-468-4121.
Those who need emergency or immediate medical assistance, should call Campus Safety by dialing “0” from any campus phone or (618) 468-2300, or dial 911.
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The following are all anonymous quotes displayed with the outfits:
“A Bohemian skirt and top. Nothing fancy. I’d worn that outfit a dozen times before. I always thought I was safe because I didn’t wear ‘those’ kinds of clothes. I guess my rapist didn’t get the memo.”
“A sundress. Months later my mother would stand in front of my closet and complain about how I never wore any of my dresses anymore. I was six years old.”
“Army ACU’s and I was carrying a gun. So much for that preventing anything.”
“It was a night shirt. I had gotten up to get a drink of water and a friend of a friend was crashing on our couch. I play that night over and over in my mind. If I had just gotten a drink from the bathroom sink instead or hadn’t woken him up when I walked through the living room.”
“Just cotton school dresses. My step-father would sometimes molest me after school until my mom got home from work. Later, when my boyfriend raped me in college, I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. We had just come back from watching a football game.”
“My lifeguard uniform. She said, guys can’t be raped. She didn’t stop.”
“Black dress pants and a white shirt. I was getting ready to go to work, he started being flirty in the bathroom. When I nudged him away and told him I didn’t have time right now, it got out of hand really fast.”
“I missed a couple days of work after it happened. When I told my boss, she asked me this question. I said, “A t-shirt and jeans bitch, what do you wear to a basketball game?’
I walked out and never came back.”
“Navy tank top with ruffles and a fitted navy and yellow skirt with pumps. My Sunday-best, as my grandma would call it.”
“A cute mini-dress. I loved it the moment I saw it. I had some killer heels, too. I just wanted to have a good time that night, look cute, and hang with my sisters. he kept getting me shots, over and over again. The next thing I remember is crawling around on the floor looking for that stupid dress.”
“I was wearing a sari. The same thing I wear most days. It was what I was comfortable in. It reminded me of home, of my family, of my identity. Now it reminds me of him.”
“Button up short sleeve shirt with blue jeans. he was my best friend’s boyfriend’s roommate. My friend told me it was okay to crash on their couch after we had all been drinking. She told me the roommate was ‘cool.’ She told me to just get over it.”
“White t-shirt and black basketball shorts. It was always the same outfit. It was always after rec league. I trusted him. My mom trusted him.”
“Sweats, a university shirt, and a ball cap. We were just going to be hanging out as usual, drinking and watching a movie. I drank way too much and woke up with him on top of me.”
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The following is a list of resources:
To File a Complaint at L&C:
Title IX Coordinator
Erickson Hall 103
Deputy Title IX Coordinator
Caldwell Hall 2319
Deputy Title IX Coordinator
Riverbend Arena 112
You can also email the college with a report of sexual violence by sending your report to: email@example.com
To speak to a Confidential Reporter:
Call For Help (Sexual Assault Victim’s Care Unit)
East St. Louis: (618) 271-8990
Granite City: (618) 797-1049
Edgemont: (618) 397-0975
Lewis and Clark Community College Confidential Counselor
Caldwell Hall 2335
Sexual Assault Resources are listed below:
-Lewis and Clark Community College Confidential Counselor located in Caldwell Hall 2335 or 618-468-4125, or 618-468-4121 to make an appointment.
-Rain (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network)
Call 24/7: 800-656-HOPE (4673)
-Sexual Assault Victims Care Unit 235 East Delmar Ave. Alton, Illinois.
-ICASA (Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault) 24-hour crisis intervention services. 100 North 16th St. Springfield, Illinois (217) 753-4117
-Call for Help, INC. For Sexual assault or any type of abuse. 618-397-0975
-Illinois Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Hotline 877-236-7703
-Oasis Domestic Violence Shelter 111 Market Street. Alton, Illinois 618-465-1978
-Centerstone 24-hour adult crisis hotline 618-465-4388, Alton hotline 618-462-2331, and 24-hour child crisis line 800-345-9049
If you are ever in a situation where you do not feel safe, call 911 immediately.