As the planning committee for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence discussed activities it would hold in Corner Brook, a few of the traditional events came up.
But along with them Victoria Jones said the group also talked of other things.
“We wanted to do something a little more innovative and something that was going to engage survivors a bit more,” said the executive director of Violence Prevention West.
Violence Prevention West, in partnership with other community-based organizations and government stakeholders, co-ordinates the local efforts for the United Nations campaign.
The campaign runs from Saturday, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to Dec. 10, Human Rights Day.
Among the ideas brought to the table was an art installation displayed at the University of Kansas in September that was aimed at dispelling one of the myths associated with sexual violence that what a victim was wearing invited the sexual abuse they experienced. It’s a form of victim blaming.
Jones said while the group thought it was powerful and effective, they wondered if they should try it here.
After some discussion they decided to go for it and put the message out through their network of partners via email and social media. She said they asked if survivors were interested in submitting descriptions of the clothes they were wearing when the sexual violence occurred. Just a description of the clothes, said Jones, as they didn’t want any identifying information.
Up to the past couple of days the committee didn’t know if it would get any response.
“But it did,” said Jones.
About a dozen outfits have been put together for display, some replicated by the groups involved and some by the survivors themselves.
“This is why this project is so effective because we’re getting stuff you would not expect,” said Jones.
“We’re getting yoga pants, jogging pants, jeans, old T-shirts. We’re not getting tight dresses. We’re not getting bathing suits and bras and that type of thing, and even if we did that’s OK, too,” said Jones.
“It’s meant to say it has nothing to do with what you’re wearing, so it totally challenges the myth that what you’re wearing, what you’re doing, has anything to do with your experience of sexual violence.”
Something striking about the descriptions of outfits received is that about half of them involve childhood abuse with stories from girls who were 13 and under when the sexual violence occurred.
Now that the project has found the outfits, Jones said the next step is for the partners to find a place to display them. She said the goal is to put them in a public location sometime during the 16 days.
“We need to be very, very careful about where we put it and we don’t want to trigger people and we don’t want to cause a lot of discomfort.”
Anyone interested in sharing an outfit can drop one or a description of it in a tote that will be located on the front step of the Women’s Centre on Carmen Avenue until Saturday.
16 Days of Activism partnering agencies
Violence Prevention West
AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador
Corner Brook Status of Women Council
Community Youth Network
Community Mental Health Initiative
Purple Ribbon Rewards Activity
People in the Corner Brook area are asked to display purple ribbons on their automobiles or in public areas as a symbol of respect for women.
During the 16 Days of Activism, the committee will be actively looking for purple ribbons and distributing rewards for supporting the campaign and making visible your commitment to addressing and ending gender violence.
Magnets are available at the Corner Brook Women’s Centre at 2 Carmen Ave. and the Violence Prevention West office at 98 Broadway.