What I Was Wearing

LYNDON-"He was older than me. We had gone on a double date with our mutual friends. On the way home he asked if we could take a different way home then them. I said 'you know I'm not comfortable with that.'" Northern Vermont University student Bryannah Heywood explained.

April is sexual assualt awareness month and NVU Lyndon campus hosted an event to remember those who have experienced sexual assualt. The event was put on by psychology major Bryannah Heywood, with the help of student Hope Perkins. "Ive always been an advocate for sexual violence survivors. It's a subject that's really close to my heart, and I think it should be close to everyone's heart." Heywood explained, Non-profit Umbrella was also at the event. Along with NVU Lyndon professor Patricia Shine, who had helped coordinate the event as well. Umbrella decided to get involved as a part of their community outreach for sexual violence awareness month.

"We like to provide as much support as we can," Prevention Advocate Chelsea Corrow explains. Umbrella takes on sexual assault victims every day, and are a big part of St. Johnsburys community. During the month of April they have many social media campaigns for assault victims. Corrow says part of the problem is living in a society that promotes violence. "There's a lot of cultural norms that really promote and allow that violence to happen. A lot of those same norms really are built to protect perpetrators and instill doubt into victims. So in terms of why, it is a very big question." Corrow says we can all make a change by believing victims. " So literally just start by believing survivors when they say they have experienced harm or violence of any form. Just saying you know, I hear you, I believe you, I support you. Also calling out harmful cultural norms that we know exist."

Heywood got the idea from an online link that brought her to something called "The Rape Museum." "It displayed all these outfits that survivors were wearing at the time of their attack," Heywood said. She decided to bring the idea to her professor, and she said, "let's do something like this on campus." The girls decided to have the event in the Moore Community Room, eleven to three. Perkins helped conduct a small survey online for those who wanted to share their stories. People sent in clothes, or gave a description of what they were wearing at the time of the attack. Perkins was one of the many who decided to share her story. "He was a senior at the time, and he just always came and tried to talk to me. I kind of brushed it off. From there it just kind of went up from talking, to touching, to just more severe stuff at different points and times." Perkins explained, this assault happened when she was just fourteen years old.

Perkins reported his behavior to the school and they did nothing. At times, she could even remember the school telling her, "oh well you were dating." "Oh well, there were no cameras to prove it." "You must have wanted it." Perkins wants other girls to know that if this happens to them, it is not their fault. "I would tell them not to get in their own head and think they did anything to deserve it. Because no matter what the situation is, you never deserve it." The ladies hung up clothes all around the room to show what these outfits would have looked like. Next to the clothes was a description of what happened to the person that had worn them. There were also pictures of clothes and stories on round tables all around the room. This topic is close to Heywoods heart because she experienced an attack of her own.

Her attacker brought her to a remote area in the woods, and parked his car. "He told me to give him a kiss," Heywood expressed she did not want to. Eventually he led her out of the vehicle. "I remember at that moment thinking back to all the ID shows I used to watch with my mom. Like, if he lets you see his face, and he takes you to a secondary location. That's when it's time to fight." Unfortunately, Heywood did not think it was in her best interest to run away from him. Considering it was dark, and she had no idea where she was. There was also a body of water nearby. "He started groping me on the outside of my clothes. I kept pushing his hands away. I said, 'no, no,' but of course he did not stop.

Heywood was taken out to the woods where she found herself against a tree. She said he began to kiss her in places she did not want to be kissed. The experience felt like forever, but finally an old man pulled into the remote area and walked over to them. Her attacker then took her home, and Heywood never went on another date with him again. She was wearing a blue sweatshirt, jeans, and leather boots at the time.

Many others shared their stories as well. One story called "Bohemian Skirt and Top," reads "A bohemian skirt and top. Nothing fancy. I'd worn that outfit a dozen times before. I always thought I was safe because I didn't wear 'those' kinds of clothes. I guess my rapist didn't get the memo." Another story titled "A Cute Mini Dress," read "I loved it (the dress) the moment I saw it. I had some killer heels too. I just wanted to have a good night, look cute, and hang with my sisters. He kept getting me shots, over and over again. The next thing I remember is crawling around the floor looking for that stupid dress."

Another story titled "Size 4t pink tank top, with size 4t plaid brown and pink shorts" told the experience of a young girl who was sexually assaulted by her uncle. She was just 7 years old. "I remember as I though it was yesterday. It has affected me in many aspects of my life. I was scared to be alone around my grandpa and dad, even though they would never do something like that to me." Heywood said she put on this event to spread awareness, and to let other victims know they are not alone. If anyone in the Northeast Kingdom is looking for help with a sexual assault claim, they can reach out to Umbrella in St. Johnsbury at 802-748-8645. If there are students on the Lyndon campus that have a report to make, they can contact Denise Moses at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . "There's really nothing you can do to prevent it, it's not their fault."