Things Left Behind

Problem:

How might we create an physical experience for college-aged students to spread awareness about domestic violence?

Background:

Issue: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. One in three women and one in four men have experienced domestic violence. Through research, we also know a high percentage of the population knows someone who has experience emotional, physical or mental abuse by a partner or family relation. But it is an often closeted issue, especially among college-aged individuals, who are the most susceptible to abusive relationships.

 Solution:

Things Left Behind: an immersive experience on domestic violence.

Discarded clothing and items, such as a toy-dinosaur and a paperback book, were left across Ball State University’s campus on October 12, 2016. Each item had a tag that read, “If found, please return to the Arts and Journalism Building, Room 298.”

Students who discovered these items brought them to the assigned room. Once arriving at the room, they were greeted by an “usher,” an actress with makeup mimicking bruises that might resemble that of a domestic violence victim. The usher took the clothing, and invited the student to participate in the Things Left Behind room.

The room was designed to look like the bedroom of a fictional individual who had recently fled from an abusive partner. The victim’s name was Jordan. The room featured a disheveled bed, an open suitcase, and items haphazardly strewn about the room.

Finally, letters were left in strategic places about the room. The letters were from Jordan to the abusive partner, chronologically outlining the progression of their relationship from the beginning to the moment Jordan left. These letters, if followed chronologically, moved the students through the room strategically.

At the end of the path, students could write letters to anonymous domestic violence victims to offer words of courage and strength to leave their abusive relationships or at least to find help. These letters were donated to the local women’s shelter.