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Asking for It

Award-winning exhibition tackling sexual violence comes to Newcastle

Published on: 10 October 2023

Newcastle University’s Law School and School of Arts and Cultures are joining forces with a multi-award-winning photographer to tackle sexual violence victim-blaming.

The collaboration is taking place as part of a social action and research project into Sexual Violence, Law and Photographic Artwork.

Jayne Jackson created the multi award-winning photographic art series named ‘Asking for it’ over a three-year period.

Based on multiple case studies, the images highlight victim blaming in cases of sexual violence through the clever use of historical styling and ‘mugshot’ format. Using make-up artists, actors and historical photographic techniques, Jayne - who also works as a commercial photographer - created a series of 23 ‘mugshots’ each representing a different decade and each depicting a reason to victim-blame for example ‘Flirted’, ‘Wore Red’, or ‘Swiped Right’.

The fascinating body of work is the result of twelve months of specialist research that Jayne undertook as part of her MA. ‘Asking for it’ includes intriguing images, taken using historic wet plate collodion methods, which were inspired by research at The Dorset History Centre.

Victim-blaming is the attitude which suggests that the victim rather than the perpetrator is responsible for the assault. Victim-blaming occurs when it is assumed that an individual did something to provoke the violence by actions, words, or dress. It is a major reason that survivors of sexual and domestic violence do not report their assaults. Many survivors are already grappling with feelings of guilt and shame for what has happened. No matter what they were wearing, how much they had to drink, or whether they had a previously consensual relationship with the perpetrator, the victim should not be blamed.

Jayne Jackson said: “My initial inspiration for ‘Asking for It’ originated from my disbelief on hearing a report on the suicide of a young woman following the acquittal of her alleged rapist. During the trial she was made to hold up her underwear three times. The fact that the victim was being blamed, shamed and humiliated for an assault that she had allegedly suffered was haunting and formed the catalyst for the project. I wanted to create images that engaged wider audiences and invited the viewer to question the aspect of blame.

“I am so pleased with the impact and continued reach of this project grateful to all involved. The images continue to be exhibited, published and used in educational seminars and workshops across the world, strengthening my belief in the power of photography to make a positive difference, open important conversations and to inspire others to themselves become agents of positive change.”

Newcastle University Humanities Research Institute and Newcastle Law School is funding the exhibition to be displayed at Newcastle University, and undergraduate Law students will visit it as part of the ‘Law and Gender’ module.

In addition, Jayne will provide guest lectures on photographic art and social justice for law and arts  and cultures students. With Dr Nikki Godden-Rasul at Newcastle Law School and Dr Tina Sikka in the School of Arts and Cultures, Jayne will be analysing students’ different reflections on their experience of the exhibition and the impact and value of art in legal education.  

Nikki explained: “This fantastic exhibition enables us to explore how photographic artwork can challenge sexual violence stereotypes, encourage law students to engage with emotional reactions to subject matter, and get them thinking creatively beyond the dominant legal responses to sexual violence.”

The Asking for it exhibition will be on show:

  • Shieldfield Art Works (SAW) Gallery: 13th - 26th October 2023
  • City Library: 26th October - 9th November 2023
  • Long Gallery, Newcastle University: 30th October - 12th November 2023

For women who need to talk to someone about rape or sexual abuse, the Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland Helpline can be contacted on 0800 035 2794 Monday – Thursday (6.00 pm – 8.30 pm). Safeline provide the National Male Survivors Helpline, which can be contacted on 0808 800 5005 – 9.00am-8.00pm weekdays and 10.00am-2.00pm weekends.

For Newcastle University students, information about the support available for survivors of sexual violence can be found on the Survivor Support service webpage.


Photography credit: @jaynejacksonphotography.

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