Following the action of the FemSoc Catwalk, stay tuned…
The Catwalk 4 Consent has been organised by FemSoc to ‘raise awareness of sexual consent’, ‘deconstruct victim blaming’ and ‘fundraise for Yellow Door’, a charity working with victims to help prevent and respond to domestic and sexual abuse. The event will feature models wearing outfits matching those that were worn by individuals when they were sexually abused. FemSoc hope this visual medium will push individuals to re-evaluate the way they think and talk about sexual abuse.
17:58 – The catwalk is about to start
The Cube is set up with a runway, chairs, sexy mood lighting along the floor and a camera to catch all the action. People are starting to arrive, and we're not the only ones visibly excited for the event to begin.
Outside the door, FemSoc have set up a small exhibition showing the results of their hard work over the past couple of weeks. They have been asking people around campus for their views on aspects of sexual assault, with questions such as 'can drunk sex ever be consensual?' to encourage us to start thinking about these important questions and their implications in real life.
18:10 – Emotional music has begun. Shit's about to get real…
18:15 – The room is quickly filling up and the lights have gone down. Ahhhh!
Members of the society are collecting donations for Yellow Door at the entrance of The Cube, if you have any spare change make sure you do your bit and help raise money for the incredible cause!
18:33 – Almost all of the seats have been taken up and they're bringing in more chairs. This is a good sign.
18:37 – A quick intro from Emily Dawes, president of FemSoc, and Fleur Macinnes, next year's president. They explain the purpose of the event, and include a couple of trigger warnings. They acknowledge this is a sensitive issue.
18:40 – Two members of the Yellow Door team are offering an introduction and overview of the company and what they're about.
The old and new president of FemSoc are talking about what they have been getting up to and changes they have made in the University. A big congratulations for the introduction of gender neutral toilets!
18:45 – They mention individuals they have met that didn’t realise they were being sexually assaulted, and hope to use the Catwalk to emphasise the importance for awareness in University.
They agree that enough is enough. They stress the need to start these conversations, to prevent sexual assault impacting lives in unimaginable ways.
18:48 The emphasis on society blaming the victim’s clothes for rape and sexual assault is at the heart of the event. They want to ‘Intensify the message that it is always the perpetrators fault. Full stop.’
18:49 – A video is playing highlighting the issues of sexual assault in Southampton.
18:51 – What is rape? This is discussed in the video, with Brock Turner used as a key example. We need to focus more on this prevalent issue in today's society. Emily Dawes (see below) mentions how social media can be a key way of doing this.
18:53 – Exploring the issues around reporting sexual assault. Often women don’t report sexual assault because they feel it won't be taken seriously, however it is not their fault that they feel this way, it is a product of society’s attitudes.
18:55 – Southampton's campaign group explains a bit about how they're helping in and around Uni. ‘All clubs in Southampton are being encouraged to sign a charter saying they recognise this is an issue and they want to do what they can to help it. This is so students know that if they go to this club they will be safe’. Also the SU are going to implement a support structure, so anyone affected by the issue of sexual assault can get the help they need.
18:59 – Fleur reminds us of the important message behind why they chose to have the models wearing the clothes of sexual assault victims: ‘so you can visualise that this is a real person, and it is happening to real people every single day, every single hour… see these outfits, connect them to humans and realise this issue is worldwide’
The catwalk begins
19:05 – Presenting the model alongside a victim's story is extremely powerful and moving. The audience is silent.
19:08 – It is interesting to see the range of clothing worn by these victims. From a ‘Sainsbury’s’ apron, to pyjamas, to school uniform. It is doing an amazing job of highlighting the stupidity of blaming someone’s wardrobe for sexual abuse.
19:10 – The claps for the models are echoing around the cube. A stark reminder of the bravery of the victims who once wore these clothes.
19:12 – The victims' stories projected on the screen behind the runway keep coming. Detailed descriptions of people’s experiences and how traumatic they were offer a chilling reminder of what is happening all around us. It emphasises the need for people to speak out and prevent further abuse in the future.
19:17 – They wrap it up with a quick note about that no matter what you wear, it still can't be used as an excuse for rape. They mention the multiple entries they received from people being abused in their PJ's and school uniform, and how distressing this was to hear.
FemSoc have provided a list of resources for anyone who feels they have been affected by this issue, and where they can go for help.
19:18 – A quick thank you to everyone who helped with this volunteer-based event, as the models crowd the stage and remind us of the outfits we have seen exhibited this evening. And that's a wrap!
We are extremely grateful to have been a part of this innovative and poignant event. It has really opened our eyes to the extent of the issues of sexual assault in our society, reinforcing the disturbing truth that sexual assault is awfully common and can happen to anyone – no matter who you are, or what you're wearing.
A massive round of applause to those who helped create the event and the survivors of sexual assault who are bravely fighting to prevent their experiences from being repeated. We look forward to attending future events like this one, helping to make a real difference in our society.
Well done guys!