Okanagan College art exhibit raises awareness around consent

Okanagan College art exhibit raises awareness around consent

The project has been to Vernon and will go to Penticton, Salmon Arm

An art installation is now open at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus.

The exhibit, titled What Were You Wearing?, highlights the clothing survivors were wearing when they were sexually assaulted. The exhibit also has descriptions of what the survivors were doing at the time of the assault, which ranged from working out to playing in the yard as a child, to getting water before going to bed.

The exbit, What Were You Wearing? kicks off Okanagan College’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

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Brianne Berchowitz is the college’s student union executive director. She said the goal of the exhibit is to educate staff and students that sexual assault can happen anytime, anywhere, regardless of the outfit.

“One of the questions that always comes up is ‘what were you wearing?’ and that’s a problematic question because it doesn’t really matter,” Berchowitz said.

“Sometimes the story is ‘I was wearing my pyjamas and I wasn’t doing anything at all and I wasn’t asking for it.’ We’re trying to let folks know that it doesn’t matter what they were wearing, but it’s still important to know they can wear anything and these things can still happen and that we’re trying to stop it from happening.”

She added, the project aims to let people know there are resources available for them as well, including counselling.

The exhibit was first on display at the college’s Vernon campus last week. Berchowitz said they’re now working towards having the exhibit shown on Penticton and Salmon Arm campuses. The project is based on a similar installation presented at the University of Arkansas in 2013.

Elske Larson is a representative from the student union and she said one of the goals of the exhibit is to raise awareness around consent.

“We just want to let people know that consent is key. ‘Yes’ is really the only way to give consent and verbally saying ‘yes, I want this’ is the key,” Larson said.

She added the student union also has a Let’s Get Consensual campaign, which aims to debunk persistent rape myths, including the myth that a survivor was “asking for it” based on what they were wearing.

“Clothing is not the reason. It’s not what they were wearing that caused the incident to happen. We should all feel comfortable wearing what we want to wear… the fact that people are getting targeted and put to shame because of what they want tow ear is awful.”

“People need to understand that it’s not their fault, they’re not alone and that there’s help out there for them.”

The exhibit first opened on Tuesday and will be open until noon on Jan. 22.

For more information on Okanagan College’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month initiatives, visit their website.

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Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
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