It's Not Your Fault - Exhibit
Trigger Warning: This body of work talks about sexual assault and includes vivid stories of sexual, verbal, and physical abuse.
In this body of work, It Wasn’t Your Fault, I am bringing awareness to verbal, physical, and sexual assault that women encounter. I am exploring the guilt, shame, confusion, and anger that women feel when they are victims of assault. The negative space between the vessels creates a silhouette of a woman’s body. I chose to use the negative space to do this because of the emptiness and hollowness that swallows the victim’s entire body and being when they are sexually, verbally, or physically assaulted. I left the surfaces of the vessels rough, dark, and dirty looking to visualize the feelings that the victims feel about themselves after they are assaulted. The victims feel dirty and unclean, and they attempt to make themselves look ‘ugly’ in hopes of deterring assaults from happening to them again. I chose to keep visible traces of where my fingers touched the clay to represent the unwanted touches that women get from men. The texture of each vessel is important because my finger marks represent unwanted advances towards the victim. I kept them subtle because outsiders often can’t see the marks left on victims, or the marks are not visible, even to the victim, but the victims can still feel them days, weeks, or months after the assault. Each sculpture sits on a shelf that has a story written on it. Some of the stories are my own and some are stories that women in my life shared with me. In 2015, I was sexually assaulted. I was seventeen at the time and just about to graduate high school. My life started to take a downwards spiral. Luckily for me, this spiral landed me right in the middle of a local ceramic arts studio. The endless opportunities for what I could create pulled me out of that spiral and set me on a completely different path in life. Combining stories of abuse, harassment, and violence, which is what began my spiral, with pottery, which is what ended my spiral, seemed like the perfect fit. The connections that I have made through sharing my story is what ultimately made me realize how many women in my life shared similar stories to my own.
Lexi Shockey is from Waynesboro Pennsylvania and started her journey with clay in 2016. She was a member of a ceramics studio in Waynesboro and made her work there until she moved into her own studio in 2017. That same year she created her own ceramics company, Blue Lemonade Ceramics, and started selling her work through markets and online through her website. She worked for herself full time making and selling pottery until she graduated from university. She graduated from Shippensburg University with a bachelors degree in art education with a concentration in ceramics. She currently is a teacher at the Chambersburg Area Senior High School where she teaches clay courses full time.
1 out of every 6 women
463,634 victims each year in the U.S.
I shouldn't have worn that dress
I've taken three showers, but his smell won't come off
It must have been something I said
It's probably my fault
Who's even going to believe me?
Video of Opening Reception Speech
Transcripts of Stories
Example of the shelves
Each shelf has a story written on top of it from either my own personal stories or from women in my life who shared their story with me for this exhibit. The transcripts of each of those stories will be below.
1 out of every 6 women
During winter break of my first year of college, I started seeing a guy I knew well. I knew this guy so well because we had been on and off again throughout middle school and high school and had many unsavory encounters together that still run through my mind. When we were both in middle school, he took me out to a field and forced me to give him a blowjob. I cried and pulled away as he continued to push my head down to his crotch. It did not last longer than a minute as I fought to get up off my knees and end the situation. He apologized and told me that he didn’t mean to force me, and he loved me. We continued to be off and on for years as he manipulated me into forgiving him, even though I knew nothing had changed but feeling like I owed him something. This leads me back to the winter break and being back on with the same guy. We were hanging out one night during my break as he was home from the military. We had been “messing around” but I was still a virgin as I was very religious at the time and I had been told to save myself for marriage. He knew this but still always pushed to have sex. That night he would not let up on the idea of having sex, even going as far as removing all his clothes and partially removed mine. He was relentless and finally I let it happen – against my will and everything in me screaming to leave. I lost my virginity that night – in his parents basement. The sex felt empty, and I could feel the lack of interest he had in me. Before having sex with him he was asking me to move where he was stationed to get married. He told me how much he loved me. He told me that he wanted me and only me, and I wanted to believe it so badly. He said those things to make me believe that we would be together forever. But as soon as he finished, I knew it was all lies and empty promises. He got exactly what he wanted, and I was left feeling exactly how I had always felt – used. I left and broke down crying feeling alone and shameful.
Who’s even going to believe me?
It wasn’t just one instance. He used his position, my family’s need for the second income, and the fact that he could schedule us both to be alone in the office to his advantage. I’m not sure the exact order of the events now. I’m equally repulsed by them all. Here are just a few. He called me into the break room to show me something he brought in as a snack for everyone. After seeing whatever he brought, I turned to leave and he reached across my body to put his hand on my left hip bone. It was beyond awkward and made no logical sense to touch me at all, let alone my hip bone. It was just before closing the office once day, he came out and started talking to me about working out, as he knew I was an avid athlete and had been my entire life. He asked me if I had a six pack stomach. And followed the question up with an invitation. “You should come over the next time my wife is out of town and work out with me in the basement, on my weight machine. I like to workout without my shirt on.” He just arrived home that day from a cruise, he stopped into the office after everyone else had left for the day. I was there until 5pm to lock up alone which was typical. He came in, told me to stand up so he could hug me. He proceeded to kiss my hair and tell me how he couldn’t wait to get back to my beautiful face. How awesome it was to know that he was coming back to work and would see my face waiting for him everyday. The feelings were not mutual. The touching was not appropriate. The flattery was never appreciated. I had confided in another partner about the harassment, but we both knew I was damned if I did called him out and damned if I didn’t. I quit after 17 months. I make it a point to never see this man. I no longer attend the same church that we were members of for 20 years as he attends there. I had known him for approximately 14 years. I took the job to gain valuable experience. I despise his very existence.
It must have been something I said
I have worked as a waitress for the last 8 years. Some of those years have been full time and some have been part time, but I have been at the same place for that long. I have seen thousands of people during my time there, and I have learned many lessons. Lesson number 1: make sure you stand far enough away from the table so you’re not within arms reach. This is because I have had my arm grabbed so hard by a man that it left bruises all because he didn’t like my tattoo. I have had a man lick his thumb and run it down my arm at the same time asking me if my tattoo was real. One of my co-workers was pulled into a booth by a man after she asked if he would like dessert and he told her that he wanted her for dessert. I have had my ass touched by men who are sitting next to their wives. I have had men pull me close to them and tell me they want me to come home with them. One guy even went as far to tell me and co worker that he wanted us to come over and take a shower with him. Don’t ever stand close enough to them that they can reach you. Lesson number 2: it’s okay to be rude to the creepy guys. Now this is a lesson you have to be careful with. If you’re too rude, you could end up getting yourself killed because you mad them so angry they wait until you’re done your shift and wait for you in the parking lot. On the other hand, being rude to the guys who think it’s okay to say whatever they’d like about your appearance or touch you in any way makes them realize that you are not playing into their game. I don’t smile at them and fake a laugh. I tell them “if you say that to me again or touch me again, I will kick you out. What can I get you?” They often think I’m bluffing, but my manager and the owner have our backs and will kick out anyone who is being inappropriate with us. Never laugh at a man who is being creepy. Unless you feel your life is threatened. Then do whatever the hell you need to do to get out of that situation alive and safe. Lesson number 3: Never and I mean never give out anyone’s schedule if someone comes in and asks. There have been so many creepy dudes who have stalked waitresses at my job and they will show up asking for their schedule. I always tell them that I am not at liberty to release that information. We have had waitresses who have had to hide in the kitchen and abandon their tables so the creepy guy stalking them wouldn’t see them or until they leave.
I’ve taken three showers but his smell won’t come off
At 17, I got into a relationship with Brad. Brad was not the typical guy you would assume I would be with. Definitely not my normal type and he definitely did not have the same goals in life that I did. I was going through a very rough time in my life and misery loves company, so I decided to start dating him. We weren’t together for very long. He started to become very needy and would get upset if I didn’t text him back right away. He would literally count the minutes it took for me to drive home and if I didn’t text him within a certain time, he would go ballistic on me. He wouldn’t let me wear certain clothes out in public. If we were talking and I made a mistake about something or misspoke, he would make fun of me for it. And not in a good natured way, but in a mean way that I can only assume was to make himself feel better about himself. He was in a alternative school, which basically means it was a last resort for him from being kicked out for good. So he wasn’t very empathetic towards my schooling and I think that’s why he exploited any and all mistakes I made, no matter how small, to make himself feel smarter or more superior to me. I was in a terrible mental state during this time so it was very easy for me to spiral. I was on the verge of spiraling every day. I was suicidal, depressed, had high anxiety and was self harming. And all of this is before he did the worst thing imaginable to me. The last night I went there I didn’t realize it would be my last. I had no plans of breaking up with him before I got to his house. We were laying in his bed watching tv like we always did and I remember thinking “is this really what I want forever?” So I told him I was going to go downstairs because he was watching tv so I could get some sleep. I didn’t actually sleep, I was thinking about how to break up with him. I eventually got the courage to do it. I went upstairs and he was still awake so I told him flat out that I wanted to break up. He got really angry with me and was telling me that no one else would ever love me and that he was the only person who could love me. Yelling wasn’t enough for him. He decided he wanted to have sex with me. So he did. Against my will. He raped me because I broke up with him. The entire time he kept telling me that I needed to act like I liked it and he would get so angry if I didn’t. I remember trying to get away but he was holding me down the entire time. I remember feeling like my soul was leaving my body. A numbness took over my body. It felt like an eternity. He lives right next to the train tracks and there was a train that was going by while he was raping me. Still to this day, hearing a train horn makes me sick to my stomach. After he was done, I went to the bathroom and stared at myself in the mirror. I felt like I no longer recognized who was staring back at me. I felt like I was a shell of a person with no emotions or feelings anymore. When I got home I took three showers and I could not get his smell off of me.
I shouldn’t have worn that dress
I was in a 4-year relationship with my ex-boyfriend and 3 years of the relationship, he mentally, physically, and sexually abused me. In my mind, whenever he would abuse me, I felt that it was my fault and that I did something wrong for him to be doing these things to me. I was wrong, nothing that happened to me was my fault and I did nothing to deserve what he put me through. The mental/emotional abuse was the most intense because he played so many tricks on my mind and made me feel as though I was the problem, even though the entire time he was the problem. He had control over my mind for those 3 years and he is a pathological liar, so I believed everything he ever said because he was so convincing. He would always make me believe that I was the one that did something wrong, and I would apologize for his actions because he controlled and manipulated me into thinking that I was in the wrong. He would also call me annoying and worthless which are very big trigger words for me now. He would always comment on how I talked too much, or how I complained too much, or that I cried too much. I was always “too much” for him, and it made me feel inferior to him because he held this overwhelming power over me that made me feels so minuscule. The physical abuse happened whenever he was mad and needed to take his anger out on something; I was his human punching bag. He was so strategic about it though because he did not want them to be noticeable to the human eye. He would leave bite marks on my body where my clothes would cover them. He was a big Baltimore Ravens Football fan and the one time we were watching the game together in his room and it was getting close to the end of the game, and they were losing by a lot. He was the type of person to get really mad over those kinds of things so I was getting scared because I knew that one of two things would happen whenever the game was over - he would leave and not talk to me for the rest of the day, or he would be so mad that he would hurt me in some way. That day it was me - that day I was standing up against the wall because I was about to go to the bathroom, and he put his hand around my neck and held me on the wall by the neck because he was so mad his team didn’t win. Then he proceeds to punch a hole in his wall right next to my face. If I had not moved over the centimeter or two that I did he would have punched me right in the face. He held me there for about three minutes and by the time he let go I was gasping for air and all I remember is sliding down the wall and just sitting there crying while he walked away. He had no remorse for what he did and he never to this day apologized for that or anything else he did. The sexual abuse was the hardest to overcome during and after the relationship. When I say sexual abuse, I mean sexual assault and rape. My ex-boyfriend would force me to have sex with him against my will which would end with me going to the bathroom to “take a shower” and just sit on the floor and cry. It was all consuming and I felt like I was powerless. He loved to say, “I’m your boyfriend we are supposed to do these things.” I think the thing about his sexual abuse that hurts me the most is the way he took my virginity. I wasn’t ready to lose my virginity and he forced me to have sex with him. I kept saying no and that I wasn’t ready to have sex yet and he didn’t like that answer so he forced himself onto me and made me have sex with him. He took many things away from me but that hurts a lot more because it was something I was supposed to be ready for. Even though he took so much from me and some of those things I will never be able to get back – today I am taking my power back and he cannot take anything else away from me ever again. When I finally got out, I saw everything so clearly. I saw everything my family and friends hated about him. I am not dwelling on the past anymore. I am finally free.
It's probably my fault
My story occurred when I was in the 10th grade. There was an older boy who suddenly noticed me and started to pursue me. I was flattered and welcomed the attention. One evening we arranged for him to sneak into my house. We were in my parents basement - One thing led to another and I found myself with great uncertainty experiencing sex for the first time. I will say – even though I was hesitant it certainly started out consensual, however not too far into the act I recall making it clear I wanted to stop, but he did not. I just remember looking off for the remainder of the time just waiting for it to be over. Afterwards, I believe we were both fully convinced there had been no foul play, but I just couldn’t shake that what had just happened had continued against my wishes to stop. I’m not going to lie – over the years I’ve been back-and-forth as to whether I overreacted or if this my fault – but I’ve ultimately come to terms with the fact that even though this person may not believe what he did was wrong, it doesn’t negate how it made me feel, how my request to stop was disregarded and how someone took something from me that has forever changed me. I’ve actually been in therapy over the years for other things and this event always resurfaces. I was actually asked by one counselor to write a letter to the man that did this - not one he would actually read, but one that would contain everything I wanted to say to him and how after all these years, I believe I was finally able to forgive him. It wasn’t full closure, but it has certainly helped me in dealing with my experience. As a result of this experience I feel I developed an altered perception of sex and what it represents and in the years to follow, treated it as something that gave me value in the eyes of other people who ultimately didn’t care about me. I’ve had issues with being intimate relationship that have carried into marriage.
463,634 victims each year in the U.S.
I was just 20 years old with a beautiful infant son and pregnant with a baby girl… living with my abusive boyfriend‘s family because I had nowhere else to go. I had put my own family through enough as a teen and could not burden them with my troubled young adult life and two grandchildren. My boyfriend came home one night drunk and instead of taking his drunken rage out on me, he ripped our son out of his crib and hung him over the balcony of our home threatening to drop him. I froze. I could not move. I believe I was in shock but the fear that I felt that night lives with me every day. My baby boy, defenseless and at the hands of his own father and I stood completely frozen. Thankfully the night ended with him asleep peacefully in my arms but the choices I made after… out of fear… low self esteem… the longing desire to be a family unit… I ended up marrying that man. That night still haunts me. I still cannot stand an infants desperate screams. It takes me right back to that night. Thankfully my son has no memory of it or how much of a coward his mom was. Day-to-day I was always in fear of the next blowup, the damage it was doing to my kids. I always clung to my belief that keeping the family together was the right choice but to this day I’ll never know if I made the right decision. It took a very long time to be the person and mother I am today. I am now a very strong-minded, divorced woman who finally loves her self and is in a very healthy relationship. I have forgiven myself and accepted that at the time I made the choices that I thought were best for my kids. Maybe in another’s eyes they were wrong but until you felt that fear or know the consequences