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‘What Were You Wearing?’: Art show focuses on sexual abuse survivors

Walking by the art gallery at Ohio University Southern, it might be confusing to see a bunch of clothing hanging on plastic hangers. It’s all part of a survivor art installation called “What Were You Wearing?”

There is nothing unusual about the clothes.

There are T-shirts, jeans, some red flannel pajamas, sweat pants, tennis shoes, sweaters, dresses. The sizes range from the size of little girl to adult.

It is only when a person begins to read the placards by the outfits that they realize that the outfits were, or similar to ones, worn when a woman was sexually assaulted.

The placards explain the situation when the assault happened. Some are a single paragraph, while others are more detailed.

“I was wearing a peach dress. It was above the knee with thick straps. I haven’t worn a dress since that night.”

“A pretty yellow hoodie, bootcut jeans, my grey New Balance shoes. His parents just left for a minute to get pizza. I was 14.”

“I was wearing black sweatpants from my high school cross country team. Only sweatpants I had at the time. I was wearing a band t-shirt.”

“I was wearing high waisted blue jeans and this pretty butterfly top. We were associates and he was going through some things in his life, so we linked to catch up and talk. I had no idea he would be the man who raped me that same night.”

The installation was put together by Ohio University’s Women’s Center.

The original installation was done in 2013 at the University of Arkansas.

The clothes and placards were displayed together “as a challenge to the notion that what people are wearing causes sexual violence.”

The clothes for the exhibit are from OU students and others.

The installation was first shown in a gallery at OU Athens and then has been at the OU branch campuses.

It will be on display at OUS until Oct. 2.

What Were You Wearing: A Survivor Art Installation in the Ohio University Southern Art Gallery. Viewing hours are Mondays/Wednesdays 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and Tuesdays/Thursdays 2 -5 p.m. or by appointment. For more information, please contact Robert Pleasant at 740-533-4608.