‘Survivor Art Installation’ works to end myth about sexual assault


Tom Jorgensen

The University of Iowa Campus looking west from Old Capitol and the Pentacrest.

Claire Dietz, [email protected]

“Well, what were you wearing?” should never be words a rape survivor hears. The Rape Victim Advocacy Program aims to dispel the myth clothing mean a person “deserved it.”

The Survivor Art Installation will be on display 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 25 in the Johnson County Administrative Building, 913 S. Dubuque St. It will consist of survivors’ stories and re-creations of the outfits they were wearing at the time of the sexual assault.

Lori Bishop-Ley, the RVAP community education and outreach coordinator, described the project as the brainchild of RVAP Executive Director Jennifer Carlson.

“We have this stereotype that this certain person is the victim of sexual assault,” Bishop-Ley said. “That stereotype is a young, college-age woman wearing something that’s maybe a ‘going out’ outfit, that’s showing a bit more skin. Do we have survivors that fit that stereotype?

“Sure. Does that mean they deserve anything traumatic to happen to them? No, absolutely not. We have a lot of survivors who were not wearing that outfit — they were wearing business attire, they were wearing their pajamas, their uniforms.”

The installation is meant to show that clothing does not necessarily play a role, she said. The onus and blame should be on the attacker, who chose to harm someone else.

“It’s about a perpetrator seeing how they have accessibility and entitlement over someone else’s body and seeking power and control over them,” Bishop-Ley said. “They chose to do that no matter what the person is wearing.”

Visitors to the installation should expect something “sobering and powerful.”

“We intentionally chose from the stories to show that there is not one victim’s story,” she said. “Rather, it can span ages, background, identity … sexual assault has no bias, the perpetrators can be anyone, and the victims can be anyone, and we need to start believing the victims despite what they say they were wearing. It doesn’t matter. I believe you and your story.”

Survivor Art Installation
When: 10 a.m. Monday, April 25
Where: Johnson County Administration Building, 913 S. Dubuque St
Admission: Free

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