The living room of Quinby House was transformed into an installation piece yesterday, the walls covered with articles, headlines and images about domestic violence. Questions prompting viewers to think critically about the media they consume were interspersed throughout the installation.

The exhibition, called “‘Sharing’ Trauma: Representations of Sexual and Domestic Violence in Social Media” was put together by the Alliance for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) as part of Consent is Sexy Week, a week of programming that aims to prevent sexual assault and to promote healthy sexual encounters and relationships.

Jackie Fickes ’15, one of ASAP’s leaders, was inspired to create the exhibit by the recent, high-profile media coverage of domestic abuse and sexual assault cases, especially those involving NFL player Ray Rice and the University of Virginia.

“Every time there is something huge like that in the media, you’re going to get a lot of other smaller opinion pieces and similar stories that seem to be cropping up everywhere,” said Fickes.

Fickes, with the help of sophomores Alexis Espinal, Ryan Herman, Caroline Montag, Hayley Nicholas, Emily Weyrauch, Emma Patterson ’16 and Kaylee Wolfe ’15, began to think about the implications of these stories.

“We started asking a lot of questions that people may not take the time to think of,” Fickes said. “Who’s telling the stories? Whose stories are being told?…Whose voices are silenced? What does it mean if we hit ‘like’ or ‘share’? What are the effects of all these narratives on survivors?”

With the power of social media, sexual assault news is being circulated much more widely and quickly. The installation aims to provide a setting for students to think about the implications of that.

“That was really our idea, to get people thinking about the proliferation in the media of these issues and how it gets represented and then asking more critical questions,” said Fickes.
Director of Gender Violence Prevention and Education Benje Douglas stressed the significance of these critical questions.

“It’s an event that’s meant to combine people’s public understanding of the issue and go a little bit deeper to the online public version, which is somewhat different,” said Douglas. “I think that’s an important juxtaposition for people to see what is said, what is written and what really happens.”

The opening of the installation, which will be up through this weekend, coincided with Leslie Morgan Steiner’s Thursday evening talk titled “Understanding Relationship Violence” in Kresge Auditorium. Fickes has been working since the fall to bring the renowned author and sexual violence survivor to Bowdoin.

“[Steiner] was in an abusive romantic relationship, so she uses her own narrative to tell that story and to raise awareness,” said Fickes. 

Quinby House’s more removed location was ideal for the installation given the sensitive nature of its subject.

“[The installation is for] people who specifically want to be looking at this and asking those questions,” said Fickes. “It’s also easily avoidable if that’s not something you want to be engaging with.”

Charlotte Dillon ’16, a member of Safe Space, attended the opening. “I think this is really nice because it makes you reflect on [...] things that you see every day,” she said.

“You see it in social media, on the Internet, and sometimes it’s very easy to not really stop and reflect,” said Dillon. 

Both Douglas and Fickes hope that conversations like the ones prompted by the exhibition and speaker can continue past Consent is Sexy Week.

“I think it’s pretty easy as students here to get focused on the everyday classes and sports and other things that take up time,” said Douglas. “This is a way to step back and see what’s really been said about the issue.”

Editor’s Note: Weyrauch is the Arts & Entertainment Editor for the Orient.