A South Carolina high school student says her work entitled “Rape Culture” was banned from the Greenville County Arts Exhibition two days ahead of the event for “inappropriate” content.
Blue Ridge High School senior Gracie Holtzclaw, 18, insists that her art teacher encouraged her to think outside of the box, not creating just another pretty picture.
Her teacher selected a print Holtzclaw design of a tattooed woman with a bar over her naked breasts.
"I feel like high school girls and girls in their early 20s struggle with the most out of anyone, just the whole rape culture and feeding us that it's our responsibility to keep ourselves out of bad circumstances," she told WYFF.
“Rape Culture” was one of 200 pieces from the district’s 14 high schools submitted to the exhibition before it was rejected.
"This piece, for both title and content, was determined to be inappropriate for the District Showcase because the artwork is on display during a community event and can be viewed by small children,” a district spokeswoman told WYFF News 4 in a statement.
But Holtzclaw’s artwork came from a very personal place and she believes the district missed her message.
"I started at an early age at a Christian school, locally, and we were always taught that it was our responsibility as women to cover up and be modest, and if a man was to ever get aroused or turned on or be interested in us, it was our fault," she said. "Eventually, I had gotten sexually assaulted. It was true when it happened. Everyone blamed me for it and told me it was my fault and that just led the way into this art piece."
"I know I'm not the only girl in high school that's been sexually assaulted and felt like it was my fault, so I wanted to get the word out there and tell people, 'It's not your fault. It's not your fault,'" she added. "Things that need to be talked about shouldn't be taboo, because people struggle and we need to talk about those kind of things that people struggle with."
Just last week a 15-year-old girl was assaulted in the hallway of her Salisbury, Md., high school while classes went on all around her.
Many people took to social media to question the victim’s behavior, “Why didn’t she scream? Why wasn’t she in class?”
Michele Hughes, executive director of the Life Crisis Center in Salisbury, says victim blame always comes up in rape cases, meanwhile if someone was robbed the victim’s character would never be questioned.
"When it's rape, it's always about the victim," Hughes told USA Today.
"Women cannot stop rape," she added. "We can all wear burqas. It isn't going to stop it."