Zonta Club of Fort Collins curates What Were You Wearing exhibit to expand sexual assault awareness

In observance of Sexual Assault Awareness month, the Zonta Club of Fort Collins, USA, and their community partners curated an exhibit called "What Were You Wearing" to dispel the myth that a person's type of clothing wears is the reason for sexual assault. The idea for the exhibit first originated from the University of Kansas, and since then, it has profoundly impacted university students across the nation.

The club met with the Front Range Community College Bystander Intervention and Education committee members to collaborate on a campus exhibit. It was supported by two local sexual assault victims organizations in their community: the Sexual Assault Victims Advocacy Center (SAVA) and the Alternatives to Violence. 

The exhibit was open in the student center from 18-22 April. It was enclosed in a curtained area with a content warning at the entry to warn viewers that the content may trigger past trauma. The college provided counseling services during open hours that week to support anyone that needed immediate assistance. Twelve outfits with stories attached were hung in the exhibit, along with students' artwork relevant to the topic. There was also a table set up with supporting written materials for victims. Before the event, the club promoted the exhibit by releasing press releases to local newspapers and interviewing with the Colorado State University television stations. The promotion was a great success, attracting many students, college campus employees, and the public.

The club's advocacy committee decided to use donated and loaned clothing and footwear to create the exhibit, creating a zero-budget project. They used Sign-Up Genius to sign up for the item of clothing or footwear and whether it is a donation, which will then be donated to a local consignment shop, or a loan. This effort also offered a running list of who loaned or donated which item, so items loaned could be returned appropriately. The partnering organizations provided their written materials for victims. Two more outfits were purchased at the cost of US$30, which was their only expenditure.

The club's challenge was knowing how to exhibit the clothing based on the venue, space provided and security. Therefore, they curtained off the exhibit, and each outfit hung with a short description from actual victims about what they wore during the assault pinned to the outfit. However, the biggest challenge was preparing the clothing on the hangars and transporting the finished exhibit materials to the campus. A club member loaned matching plastic hangers and pants hangars to create visual consistency.

The total time to plan and prepare was: six months of pre-planning, four to five hours preparing the exhibit materials to hang, time to transport, the installation was two hours and takedown was approximately 90 minutes.

Upon the final day, the exhibit was moved to the District 12 Area 2 meeting to allow attendees to view the exhibition and ask questions so that other clubs can offer this same opportunity in their communities. This exhibit advances Zonta's mission 'Say No To Violence' to provide more education about the myths and truths of sexual violence.