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Bishop's Stortford charity behind new rape awareness exhibition

A support service for survivors of rape and sexual abuse based in Bishop's Stortford has joined forces with the University of Hertfordshire for a powerful new exhibition.

The What Were You Wearing? installation aims to raise awareness and tackle assumptions about victims.

It has been curated by university students and staff in collaboration with Red Kite charity and features testimonies from real victims of rape and sexual assault, alongside a representation of what they were wearing when they were assaulted – underlining that someone's experience of sexual violence can never be blamed on their clothing or appearance.

What Were You Wearing? (62377270)
What Were You Wearing? (62377270)

The organisers also aim to challenge stereotypical views of who can become a victim, with testimonies and outfits representing all genders, ages and experiences.

A similar installation was held last year at the University of Hertfordshire campus and was a huge success.

This year's event will be even bigger, expanding to include art, posters and poetry, which the organisers hope will reach an even wider audience.

Siobhan Nundrum, centre, at last year's What Were You Wearing? exhibition (62377268)
Siobhan Nundrum, centre, at last year's What Were You Wearing? exhibition (62377268)

The exhibition is inspired by a global movement, with similar events taking place across the world in recent years.

Siobhan Nundram is chair of the Red Kite and Sexual Abuse Support Service board which helps survivors across East Herts.

She said: "Until and unless there is a huge culture shift, where the perpetrators of rape and sexual assault are treated with the same levels of revulsion as those who commit murder, there will still be a need for services such as ours.

"We are pleased to be able to provide services to help people heal but how good would it be if we had a society where we didn't have so many victims/survivors?

What Were You Wearing? (62377272)
What Were You Wearing? (62377272)

"We need to change tolerance levels and empower people to call out abusive or devaluing behaviours.

"We need a call to arms to rid our public services of hidden perpetrators and restore the public's confidence.

"We are excited to be working with the university to campaign to strengthen the laws and increase the number of perpetrators who are caught and held accountable for their heinous crimes because it is then that perpetrators will think twice about assaulting and raping others for their own gratification.

"We are looking to create a permanent legacy following this exhibition to ensure that we honour those who have suffered from rape and sexual abuse at any time in their lives and create the change we want to see."

Loren Aliu, lecturer in criminology at the university's law school, helped to organise the exhibition.

She said: "I believe that this exhibition enables us to facilitate those difficult conversations regarding rape and sexual violence. It was a huge success last year; we want to continue to challenge outdated perceptions of rape and we want survivors to know that help is available.

"This is a great opportunity for the university to work with Red Kite to find ways to tackle the prevalence of rape and sexual violence in the local community".

"We hope that the exhibition raises awareness about rape and sexual violence. We also hope that we can educate people and help to dispel rape myths. Particularly, we want to challenge the notion of routine 'victim-blaming' such as by asking victims 'What Were You Wearing?'.

"Most importantly, we want the local community to know that help is available and that Red Kite is committed to supporting all survivors of rape and sexual abuse".

To access Red Kite services, see https://redkitesupport.org.uk/

What Were You Wearing? is open from opens on February 13 to 17, 9.30am to 5.30pm, at the Howard Centre, Welwyn Garden City.

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