Women’s Leadership Project hosts Exhibit Calling Attention to Rape and Sexual Assault



The month of April marks an important time of the year worldwide. Not only is it holy week for those who practice Christianity, but it also makes the observation of Sexual Assault Awareness and and Prevention Month. Fort Hays State University only recently associated itself with Sexual Awareness Month after Jetta Smith, Miss Butler County, aimed one of her pageant campaigns at fighting against sexual assault and domestic violence.

Smith went to the Student Government Association and asked that they pass a resolution declaring April as officially recognized by Fort Hays State as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. You can read more about the passing of this resolution at last week’s SGA meeting here.

When asked to reflect on the impact that she had with her testimony to the Student Government Association, Smith said that on the whole, it felt great.

“I was heard believed and accepted. That is ultimately what survivors want, for our stories and overcoming to be valid,” she said.

Smith further added that with the SGA declaring April to be Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, it is a sign that they genuinely care about the issue.

“They know the numbers and want to make a difference, and they are willing to take a stand, and they are willing to take a stand against something that is affecting so many students,” Smith said.

Her testimoy proved to be a game changer as it set the stage for the various events hosted by the Women’s Leadership Project this week on campus.

Elaine Parkinson, one of WLP’s organizers is also helping with the “What Were You Wearing Display.” The display is hosted in tandem with WLP and Jana’s Campaign and can be found in Forsyth Library until Thursday afternoon.

“The display was started as a type of art exhibit to show people the stark contrast between the common rape myth that clothing causes consent such as saying that when a woman is wearing a short skirt, she is asking for it or wearing a certain of skimpy clothing that they brought it upon themselves to be sexually assaulted,” Parkinson said.

By putting these outfits and descriptions up of what the victims in question were wearing when they were raped, she believes that these are the perfect example of untrue this trope is. Many of the outfits at the display are casual everyday clothing such as jeans and t-shirts and clearly and show that regardless of the clothing, rapists cause rape regardless of whatever their victims may have been wearing.

Even women wearing army outfits and dresses were among the displayed items. Such an event is perfectly in line with the goals of the Women’s Leadership Project.

“Initially the Women’s Leadership Project was created with the goal of educating, empowering, and inspiring women to be leaders of tomorrow,” Parkinson said. “And what we believe is that a woman cannot be educated, empowered, and inspired if she is not safe first.”

Parkinson also provided a brief overview of related events on campus this week such as the Denim Day on April 24th where people wear denim jeans to show solidarity with a rape victim in Italy whose case was dismissed by a judge who ruled that her jeans were too tight for her to have been raped.

There will also be a film screening of the movie I Am Evidence, directed by Mariska Hargitay from Law and Order Special Victims Unit television program who made the film to raise awareness of untested rape kits. I Am Evidence will be screened April 25th at 6:30 p.m. in the Stouffer Lounge. Such events raise awareness of a sensitive conversation that needs to be had on campus. For this very reason, those of us in the Fort Hays community should stand behind them.

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