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“What Were You Wearing?” Survivor Art...

This exhibit is the first of its kind in Napa.

“What Were You Wearing?” has been curated on college campuses across the country featuring outfits recreated from the stories of student sexual assault survivors.  The project is inspired by a poem written by Dr. Mary Simmerling entitled What I Was Wearing, which details the outfit she was wearing when she was sexually assaulted: a white t-shirt and a knee-length denim skirt. Her poem will be on display throughout the showing. 

Napa Valley College and NEWS are fortunate to present this recreation with permission from the original creators and the stories utilized were donated by survivors and used with their consent.  This installation provides a tangible response to one of our culture’s most pervasive sexual assault myths and asks participants to understand that sexual assault is never about the clothing.  The act of shedding those clothes is never enough to bring peace or comfort to survivors.  This violation is not simply woven into the fabric of the material, it is a part of the survivor’s new narrative.

“If only ending sexual violence was as easy as changing our clothes.  Instead it requires all of us to evaluate what enables us as individuals and as a society to ask, “what were you wearing?” in the first place.  NEWS is honored for the opportunity to collaborate with Napa Valley College and bring this powerful survivor art installation to the campus.  The hope is that it will be a learning experience where those viewing the exhibit will formulate healthy attitudes and beliefs regarding the common “clothing causes sexual violence” sexual assault myth.” – said Heather Bailie, SAVS Outreach and Education Program Manager.

One of the goals of the Installation is for participants to see themselves reflected in not only the outfits, but also the stories.  This realization moves us away from blaming the victim for violence and places responsibility where it belongs, on those who cause harm.  The hope is that survivors who experience the Installation feel heard, validated, believed, and know that the assault was not their fault.

“Sexual violence is a very real problem on every college campus.  It is important for us as a college and Napa as a community to continue to do its part to fight against it.  Napa Valley College is excited to partner with NEWS on bringing the powerful and impactful “What Were you Wearing?” Survivor Art

Installation to Napa.  The hope is to continue to open people’s eyes about sexual violence, remind them that this problem exists everywhere, and help victims know they are not alone and that we support them and their battle to rise above.”- said Amber Wade, Chief of Police, Napa Valley College.