An exhibit in the Lamarche Gallery in David Saul Smith Union displays multicolored hand-written posters created by victims of sexual assault.  The display is in partnership with “Surviving in Numbers,” a non-profit organization launched in October of 2012 by Alison Safran, an activist, who collaborated with senior Gabriela Serrato Marks to bring the show to Bowdoin.

Safran’s goal is to bring attention to the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses across the country by developing and implementing prevention curricula for high schoolers. The organization provides an online forum for survivors to share their experiences. Safran has shown her exhibit at the U.S. Consulate in China, the Massachusetts State House and colleges across the country.

Marks was inspired by her friendship with Safran to organize the exhibit. 

“[Safran] told me she was looking for different colleges to show her exhibits so I thought we might as well do one here at Bowdoin,” said Serrato Marks. “She started it as a way to have survivors of sexual assault tell their stories in a format that they were able to control.”

The large marker-decorated posters use numerical information and statistics to illustrate the realities of surviving sexual assault. 

“I think [Safran] liked the idea to use numbers because it quantifies things in a way that would otherwise be hard to describe. It separates you a little from the story and I think that makes you realize that these posters could be anyone,” said Serrato Marks. “I really like the format for that reason.” 

The statistical content of most of the posters also makes clear both the challenges victims of assault face and the successes they can achieve in the process of recovery. 

“Some people are still affected by their assault 50 years later and that’s significant,” said Serrato Marks. “Other people are able to write down that it’s been 12 months since their last panic attack. That’s also highly significant and a great victory for that person. Putting numbers to things helps outsiders understand the experience.”

Serrato Marks hopes that the exhibit will help members of the Bowdoin community understand the impact that sexual assault has on individuals. 

“I can’t say that the exhibit will prevent assault; I think that only changes in behavior can prevent assault,” she said. “I hope that the exhibit will make people think twice about their interactions and remind them to make sure they’re being careful to get consent every time.” 

The exhibit is meant to reach everyone at Bowdoin, regardless of prior exposure to or knowledge of sexual assault.

“I like to think that [the exhibit] will help people understand survivor experiences a little bit better because unfortunately, there are a lot of survivors on this campus,” said Serrato Marks. “Ideally, because of this exhibit, there wouldn’t have to be any more survivors, but for now I think that love and support is what we can offer.”

“Surviving in Numbers” came to Bowdoin with the help of many campus groups and offices including Residental Life, the Women’s Resource Center, The Department of Gender Violence Prevention and Education, Bowdoin Men Against Sexual Violence, V-Day, Safe Space, the Bowdoin Queer Straight Alliance and the Alliance for Sexual Assault Prevention. 

“We all have similar missions but we seldom cooperate because of issues such as scheduling,” said Serrato Marks. “It was really nice to work together.” 

Members of the Bowdoin community who have survived sexual assault as well as people not affiliated with the school contributed to the exhibit by creating the posters.
“Surviving in Numbers” will be on display in Lamarche Gallery in Smith Union through Sunday December 7.