To Fight Victim Blaming, People Revealed What Clothes They Were Wearing When They Were Sexually Assaulted
Sexual assault is a traumatic experience that can change the victim’s life forever. It sounds like common sense to show compassion for the victims, but some people still think it’s acceptable to blame them for the assault by saying it happened because they were dressed “provocatively”. And to fight this victim blaming, one art exhibition is displaying the clothes people were wearing when they were assaulted.
The exhibition, titled “What Were You Wearing?”, was created by sexual violence and intimate partner violence survivor advocates Dr. Wyandt-Hiebert and Ms. Brockman after hearing a poem by Dr. Mary Simmerling, titled “What I Was Wearing” during a conference. It deeply affected them and inspired them to create a visual representation of the poem. The exhibition was first held at the University of Arkansas back in 2014 and featured clothes and stories of the students. The aim of the exhibition is to prove that clothes have nothing to do with initiating sexual violence.
Since it was first displayed, the exhibition was displayed on many university campuses. It even inspired other similar exhibitions criticizing victim blaming. See the exhibits and the victims’ stories in the gallery below.
Dr. Wyandt-Hiebert and Ms. Brockman created the “What Were You Wearing? to help fight victim blaming
“A sun dress. Months later, my mother would stand in front of my closet and complain about how I never wore any of my dresses anymore. I was six years old.”
“Army ACU’s and I was carrying a gun. So much for that preventing anything”
“Khakis and a dress shirt. I had to give a presentation that day in my communications class. They took my clothes at the hospital during my rape exam. I’m not sure what happened to them.”
“A swimsuit. We had been canoeing at the river all day. It had been a really fun time. Then they came in to my tent when I was trying to change clothes.”
“My favorite yellow shirt, but I don’t remember what pants I was wearing. I remember being so confused and just wanting to leave my brother’s room and go back to watching my cartoons.”
“T-shirt and jeans. It happened three times, by three different people in my life. Each time I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans.”
“I missed a couple days of work after it happened. When I told my boss, she asked me this question. I said, ‘A t-shirt and jeans, what do you wear to a basketball game?’ I walked out and never came back.”
“(1) Jeans and a t-shirt at 18-years old. (2) Children’s dress by my cousin’s father at 5 years old. (3) Dress – I thought I was safe with a woman but woke up to her raping me, too.”
“A university t-shirt and cargos. It’s funny; no one has ever asked me that before. They ask if me being raped means I’m gay or if I fought back or how I could ‘let this happen to me,’ but never about my clothes.”
“I was wearing khaki shorts and a cotton tank top. He convinced me to come back to his house with him after a lame date. I was told by a friend to keep the clothes. I was wearing in case I decided to report it. They are still in a bag hidden in my closet.”
“The first time I was wearing jeans and a blue t-shirt. The next time, years later, I was wearing jeans and a blue t-shirt. I wear blue sometimes when I kickbox or when I need to be assertive. Even today I am wearing blue because they don’t get to take my voice, my favorite color, or my ability to say no and mean it. These are mine.”
“I was wearing jean shorts and a tank top. He wouldn’t let me out of his car until he finished. As soon as I got home, I threw that shirt in the trash.”
“My prom dress. Don’t know if that needs much more explanation…”
“White t-shirt and black basketball shorts. It was always the same outfit. It was always after rec center league. I trusted him. My mom trusted him.”
“Jean shirt, jeans, and Toms. Everyone seems so confused when I tell them this. Like they can’t understand what I am saying. They can’t understand what I was wearing. It’s almost funny. Almost.”
“I was wearing a sari. The same thing I wear most days. It was what I was comfortable in. It reminded me of home, of my family, of my identity. Now it reminds me of him.”