“… Just cotton dresses. My stepfather 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.”
(Outfit inspired by a 19-year-old UofA student)
The University of Arkansas is like many campuses around the country, at least for the last few years, trying to fight against epidemic numbers of sexual assaults.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released in 2011 showed higher numbers of reported sexual assaults than ever before. While the report stated that 1 in 5 women in the general population experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetime, the chances rose to 1 in 4 for women in college.
Most college campuses now have an entity that specifically works to end the sexual violence epidemic through education and advocacy. The group Rape Education Services by Peers Encouraging Conscious Thought (RESPECT), at UofA, is set up to educate students and the general public about the dynamics and prevalance of sexual assault in our society and on campus, and what needs to be done stop it. To honor Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, RESPECT put together an installment on the UofA campus, coupling the outdated victim-blaming question of “What Were You Wearing?” with real-life stories of sexual violence.
This installment is moving and is replacing our usual monthly fashion column because like these victim accounts, the statistics are staggering; That 73 percent of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows (U.S. Department of Justice); That 52 percent of sexual assaults take place in the victim’s home (according to the journal of Justice Research and Policy); That only 40 percent of rapes are ever reported to the police (USDJ). The exhibit attempts to show that when you listen to the stories of real sexual assault victims, their experience was never based on what they were wearing, and it is never the choice of the victim to be assaulted, despite the situation.
The installment will be up until April 5 in the Student Union of UofA, but hopefully the messages leave a lasting mark in the minds of students and faculty. For more information on RESPECT and what they do, visit respect.uark.edu. For more information on sexual assault in Arkansas, visit the Arkansas Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s website, www.acasa.us.