Sexual Assault Exhibit to be Displayed at Holy Cross

Unheard Voices, an interactive multimedia exhibit of hand-crafted portrait castings and viewer-activated oral histories of people who have experienced sexual assault, will be on display Oct. 16–29, daily from 10 a.m.–6 p.m., at Holy Cross. The exhibit is free and open to the public. Colleges in the Worcester Consortium and local high schools have been invited to attend the event.

Unheard Voices was created by artist Jason Dilley in 1995 from full-body portrait castings, life masks and recorded oral histories of survivors of sexual assault. It was created as part of Project Face to Face, an exhibit that combines mask-making and oral history to tell the stories of people living with AIDS.

The Unheard Voices educational manual was prepared by numerous people from San Francisco City College, Ithaca Rape Crisis and Cornell University Advocates for Rape Education (CARE).

Since its inception, the exhibit has toured venues around the country, including the International Conference on Sexual Assault, the National Association of College Activities and numerous colleges and universities, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Johns Hopkins University and Williams College. While at Holy Cross...

Jason Dilley always makes a point to cast a mask of a student at the college or university he is visiting. This, he feels, gives the college community a sense of how real and personal his masks are. The process of creating a mask is a long, tiring, and emotional one for both the artist and his subject. There is a particular opportune time during the casting that a subject's smile, frown, or any other facial expression can be captured in the mold. This is the image that defines the subject for Dilley and all who see his work.

When asked what inspired him, initially, to do castings of sexual assault victims, Mr. Dilley explained how he heard a voice, while on a 10-day silent retreat, that told him he should focus his energy on working for the sexually abused. The idea to do full-body castings was rooted in the powerful reactions his masks received. He felt if the masks could capture so much emotion, than full-body castings could only capture more.

So, why is Jason Dilley so intent on bringing his artwork to college campuses? He feels that his work can be used as a valuable tool to bring awareness to young generations. Each academic community can adapt the exhibit to their particular curriculum and learning environment in order to have the most impact on their students.

Dilley wants to stress the importance of men being part of the exhibit, which is an aspect of sexual assault that is often overlooked by young people. He knows that his exhibit may be the first that college students see which deals with such an issue, and feels that it is crucial to bring the reality of it to everyone's attention.

More than anything, the artist recognizes that, for college communities, there is a sense of healing that can occur in individuals when they see that they are not the only ones who have suffered. Victims can draw strength from their surrounding community and from the victims that are brought to life by Dilley's work. There is, he says, a very real sort of bonding that can take place between the subjects of his artwork and the people that hear their stories. He believes that those subjects serve as proof to their audience that "the human heart really does have the ability to survive the inhumanity of humanity."