On Monday, April 16, seven teal silhouettes appeared around the Beamer Center. Each life-size silhouette displays one Wheaton student’s testimonial of “hope and healing” from sexual victimization. This project, entitled “Visions of Voices,” is the senior capstone project of Chloe Burris, an anthropology major who has a heart for victims of sexual violence.
Under each silhouette, the mission statement reads, “Visions of Voices is a capstone project by senior Chloe Burris. It seeks to showcase God’s power to heal and redeem our deepest pain and to challenge the silence and shame too often placed on survivors of sexual violence.”
According to Burris, “This project is something that … has been in the works for a few years after having my own story with sexual victimization at Wheaton and talking to other people.” While Burris noted that she was encouraged by the trainings and awareness events that Wheaton held at the beginning of the year, she “felt that there was definitely space for an expansion in the conversation, particularly something that would allow us at a campus to hear from the experiences of our community members who have actually experienced and survived sexual victimization.”
Burris had a three-fold hope for her project. First, that the people involved would be empowered by sharing their stories. Second, that those who have experienced sexual violence and have not found healing would be encouraged to do so, and third, that those who have never experienced sexual violence would feel empathy for those who have.
All the testimonials are anonymous, and the silhouettes are not those of the people who shared their stories. “I’m not trying to hide. I don’t think anyone who’s a part of my project is trying to hide themselves or their stories, but to make more the statement that this could be anyone. In fact, you don’t know it’s not the next person who you say hi to on your way to class … an invitation for all of us to consider ourselves in that person’s place, to consider our neighbor in that person’s place,” she explained.
Burris specifically focused on the healing process after sexual victimization. “My goal was not to minimize the pain or trauma of things, but also to look beyond that to what can be, which I think we have that hope as Christians. God doesn’t leave us in our deep pain and brokenness — he actually entered into that through Christ and enters into that now with us.”
Burris’ project fits in the theme of Wheaton’s sexual assault awareness month campaign: “Your voice has the power of hope and healing.”
Other events for this campaign included the “paint the halls teal” competition in some residence halls, “messages of hope nights,” where students wrote messages of hope and healing on donations for a local rape crisis center, the “take a moment” series, where students asked questions about sexual violence in Lower Beamer, and “green dot day,” where students learned how to stand against sexual violence as a bystander on Soderquist Plaza.
The silhouettes and testimonials will be displayed until Tuesday, April 24. The last sexual assault awareness month event will be on Wednesday, April 25 for “national denim day.” According to the Denim Day website, the movement is a response to a movement by the Italian Supreme Court in which the judges overturned a rape conviction, claiming that, because the victim’s jeans were so tight, she must have helped the defendant remove them. Students are encouraged to wear denim as a statement against the misconceptions about sexual assault.