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Daily Journal
     April 6, 2022      #47-96 KDJ

Clove Alliance introduces new exhibit to shine

By Taylor Leddin

While “Take Back the Night” is not a new concept for Clove Alliance, formerly KC-CASA, this year’s awareness campaign brought forward a new idea.

Normally, a community walk is used to raise awareness for sexual violence during April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Prior to COVID, the walk had been the focus for nearly two decades.

New this year is “What I Was Wearing” exhibit. On display Tuesday evening in the fourth-floor auditorium of the Kankakee Public Library, the display was curated to counter the insinuation that what someone was wearing was relevant to their experience with sexual assault.

“I feel [the exhibit] is very powerful and a great way to explain rape culture and it’s not about what you were wearing,” said Clove’s Executive Director Tracey Noe-Slach.

“It’s very victim blaming,” she continued. “It’s not about that with sexual assault. It’s about power and control.”

The exhibit also sought to show that sexual assault can affect anyone — no matter their gender or age.

The display was a collection of 18 outfits and stories from anonymous individuals who have been impacted by sexual assault in the Kankakee County community. Because clothing is typically taken in for evidence in a sexual assault case, the clothing on display was not the actual articles the anonymous individuals had been wearing at the time of their assault.

“These are actual stories of people that are here in our community,” said Noe-Slach, sharing that Clove had been working on the “What I Was Wearing” concept for a number of years.

The clothing and accounts had belonged to males and females, adults and children. Also around the displays were myths tacked onto windows about sexual assault; such as one cannot be sexually assaulted by a partner or spouse.

Below the myth is a dispute, saying that marital rape has been illegal in every state and District of Columbia since 1993. This poster appeared near the account of a 30-year-old survivor, who shared, “It was my husband, the person I exchanged vows with.”

“Not only did he sexually violate me, he tried to kill me. Marital rape exists, and I suffered through it for over two years.”

Several of the displays, particularly the ones involving children, accounted of sexual assault by a person that they trusted, such as a parent, relative or neighbor.

As exhibit attendees took in the emotions of the display, the word “jarring” and the phrase “it scares me so much” were exchanged. A few attendees were moved to tears at the impact of the stories.

Accompanying the exhibit was a live acoustic guitar set by Mary Claire Dwyer, an eighth-grade student at Bourbonnais Upper Grade Center, who donated her time and talents for the evening.

Community support

The Zonta Club of Kankakee is a major supporter of Clove Alliance and assists each year in the Take Back the Night event. Also on-site to show support was Harbor House and United Way of Kankakee and Iroquois Counties.

Zonta exists internationally to support women and girls. The local chapter often works with Clove as well as Harbor House.

“Anyone could be sexually assaulted at anytime — what you’re wearing has nothing to do with it,” said Kelly LaMore, president of the local chapter. “Zonta wants to help women and girls feel empowered and be themselves, no matter what they’re wearing.”

While the exhibit at the library was a one-night-only event, Kristin Giacchino, community engagement specialist for Clove, said that the exhibit will be on display at the end of April at Kankakee Community College.

“As often as we tell people that clothing has nothing to do with sexual violence, just to see that really helps people come to that realization,” said Giacchino.

For more information on Clove Alliance and upcoming events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, go to clovealliance.org.

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