Some left only a simple mark – a tacit acknowledgement of their experience. Others left personal accounts.
He said it was love.
Had to get a restraining order.
Laughed at and not taken seriously.
Taking in the contents of Jaclyn Kidd’s exhibit “Safety in Numbers” – which was displayed during the summer and early fall in Joplin’s Rapha House International – is a sobering reflection on sexual assault gathered as part of the recent Missouri Southern graduate’s research project.
During the Spring 2019 semester, Kidd placed mirrors in men’s and women’s restroom stalls on campus. People were asked to leave a mark if they had ever experienced sexual assault, rape, threats or harassment.
“I didn’t expect the volume (of responses) and the reactions that people had to it,” says Kidd. “I had to bring blank sheets of paper to add as supplements to some of them. In one of the women’s restrooms, the mirror had been filled so someone wrote their entire story on a piece of notebook paper and taped it to the mirror. They felt compelled enough to share it and wanted someone to see it.”
Not everyone responded in a positive manner. One mirror was broken, while others had comments and notes wiped clean. Kidd regularly documented the responses with photographs so comments and marks which were lost could be recreated.
But among the marks and devastating personal accounts are also messages left to let others know they are not alone.
Praying for you all.
It wasn’t your fault.
“It’s a hard topic to discuss, but when you look at these mirrors – as devastating as these marks can be – you can also really sense positivity when you read them,” says Kidd, noting the many expressions of support and love.
Kidd, who recently graduated with a BFA in graphic design, began the project for her Honors thesis and later displayed the results as an installation in the campus art gallery. She was invited to also display it at Rapha House, where she has volunteered for the last year.
Founded in 2003, the Joplin-based organization works to end trafficking and sexual exploitation of children.
“The staff (at Rapha House) has always been very supportive of what I do,” says Kidd. “They were very receptive of the exhibit and wanted to bring it here so the public would have a greater opportunity to see and discuss it.”
Sexual assault is a very serious issue, she says, and society has become better about openly discussing it.
“What this exhibit intends to do is bring that to a local level,” she says. “It’s horrible and we don’t like to talk about it, but it’s happening. It’s your friend… it’s the person at the grocery store.”
“I hope that people (who view the exhibit) can take an interest in the issue and educate themselves so they can speak more compassionately about the people around them.”