OGDEN, Utah- (Good Things Utah) Trigger warning; The following article contains information about rape and sexual assault. April is sexual assault prevention month. Unfortunately, here in the state of Utah one in every five women have been the victim of rape and nearly half of women in the state have experience some form of sexual assault. McKenzie Wood, Assistant Professor at Weber State University was joined alongside her colleague, Kathryn Sperry, Ph.D and student Megan Harris to talk about a campaign focusing on the debunking myths of sexual assault as well as educating people the sobering facts of sexual assault.
The campaign, “Start By Believing”, is focused on supporting victims of sexual assault. The campaign is holding an exhibit entitled “What Were You Wearing?” featuring clothing that victims have worn when they were assaulted. “The whole mission of [the exhibit] is to debunk some of the myths of sexual victimization,” said Wood. “Debunk the myth that only females can be victimized or debunk the myth that only those who are wearing scantily clad clothing are victimized [and debunk] that only those who are partying or at a club or a bar are victimized.” With this campaign, students will have the opportunity to sign a pledge that states that they will believe when someone has shared that they have been the victim of sexual assault. There will also be a quote attached to the clothing from the victims. Speakers will include people from Safe Harbor Crisis Center and Ogden Police Department, SVU. The exhibit recognizes that people of all ages and genders have been the victims of sexual abuse and also wants to break down the stigma.
One of the most common misconceptions about victims of rape is that the victim was dressed a certain way. Unfortunately, victims have worn numerous articles of clothing when the traumatic incident occurred. The exhibit wants to show how this has happened to numerous victims anywhere regardless of what they were wearing, and it is never the victim’s fault. The perpetrator is solely to blame when it comes to sexual assault and victims deserve to be believed. “It is so vital that we all believe women and not just women, all victims who are victims of sexual assault,” said Harris. “[At the exhibit] there are all different kinds of outfits that you might not think at first [were worn].” With the actual clothing being displayed, it does make it seem more real to those who visit the exhibit.
“We know this is such an important topic that we need to keep talking about,” said Sperry. “Especially in Utah. We know Utah ranks ninth right now in terms of number of rapes per capita [in the country].” Because this sensitive yet important issue does not get talked about, over 88% of sexual assaults in the state of Utah do not get reported. Victims also include one in 25 Utah men have been the victims of sexual assault. One of the reasons they do not get reported is due to the fact that many victims feel the blame will be placed. As stated earlier, the victim is never at fault and only the rapist and assaulter is to blame.
The exhibit, which is student led, will be held at Weber State University’s campus at Lindquist Hall on Wednesday, Apr. 12 from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. A shuttle will be available from the Dee Events Center to the exhibit. Admission is free and open to the public. Pizza will be served to all attendees. There will also be a portion of the exhibit showcased at Safe Harbors Art Fair in Bountiful, Utah on Saturday, Apr. 22.