Southern Alberta art installation challenges common victim blaming myth

Click to play video: 'Survivor art installation combats victim blaming'
Survivor art installation combats victim blaming
A survivor art installation in Lethbridge is challenging one of the biggest myths in sexual violence: that what the victim was wearing played a role. As Jaclyn Kucey reports, the installation is meant to challenge the public to engage with the universal connection we have with clothing and reflect on what gives this specific rape culture myth so much power – Oct 19, 2023

“What were you wearing when it happened?” is a question that survivors of sexual violence are asked far too often.

A Lethbridge art installation hopes to combat the common example of victim blaming using outfits inspired by survivors’ stories.

“If it was as simple as shedding your clothes and wearing something different — if that really would help — we know we’d all have uniforms that we’d have on. That’s not the case,” said Kristine Cassie, co-chair of Sexual Violence Action Committee (SVAC).

“It has nothing to do with the clothing, it has nothing to do with how much you drank, it has nothing to do with being friends with someone that leads to sexual assault. The only thing that leads to a sexual assault is the person who has perpetrated that crime.”

Cassie credits the worldwide initiative to a group of women in the United States who started it to promote awareness and debunk one of the biggest rape myths.

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“It’s a way to have people take a step back, do some reflection, and to look at how we’re actually feeding into trauma and victimization in our communities,” said Cassie.

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SVAC co-chair Tracy Rocca explains the most impactful part of the exhibit is seeing the diversity of clothes.

“As everyone moves through, there will be different outfits that really touch your heart and sort of move you, so it’s important to have a variety,” said Rocca.

Rocca said the variety of outfits show sexual assault can happen to anyone.

“Quite often, we’re around people we know and that we love, and that we want to support that have actually experienced this,” said Cassie.

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According to the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS), an estimated 1.8 million Albertans have experienced at least one incident of sexual violence in their lifetime. Forty-three per cent of — or nearly every other — Albertans have experienced sexual violence.

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The installation is accompanied by representatives from Lethbridge Family Services, YWCA Lethbridge and District and the Chinook Sexual Assault Centre answering questions of what steps can be taken to end sexual violence.

“I think we need to do some broad-scale work around active bystander engagement as well, so that people aren’t just sitting back and letting things happen. But we know how to have those conversations and how to intervene,” said Cassie.

“Come take your time. It’s very powerful to see the different stories,” said Rocca. “We have supports available for those that need extra time or space to process.”

The two-day installation at the Chinook Ballroom of the Sandman Hotel at 421 Mayor McGrath Drive South is open until 9 p.m. on Thursday, and again from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday.

If you are in crisis or in need of support, call or text Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence at 1 866 403 8000.

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