Art Exhibit Calls Out The Idea That Women Who Get Raped Were Wearing The Wrong Thing

sexual assault exhibit
@kansasuniongallery via Instagram

It's the question women constantly hear after being sexually assaulted: "What were you wearing?" (as if it matters). Rape victims everywhere have been told time and again that they were "asking for it," based on their clothing choices, no matter what they may be. An art exhibit at the University of Kansas just blew up this (unfortunate) age-old myth once and for all.

The installation, curated from stories of university students and put together by the University of Kansas' Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center, displayed 18 outfits worn by 18 different sexual assault survivors when they were attacked. Next to the outfits were brief, heartbreaking narratives from the survivors. Appropriately titled "What Were You Wearing?" and the outfits range from t-shirts, exercise clothes, and dresses to jeans, swimsuits, and cargo shorts. 

The point? To prove that rape and sexual assault have absolutely NOTHING to do with what someone is wearing.

Jen Brockman, Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center director said, "We wanted students, or anyone, to walk into the show and to see themselves reflected in the outfits... and put the blame where it belongs, which is on the person who’s caused the harm."

The installation originated back in 2013 at the University of Arkansas, and has been displayed at other campuses as well. This particular installation, however, was made in collaboration with the KU Student Union. Students voluntarily wrote in answers about being sexually assaulted in college, or previously in life, and 18 were chosen to be featured. Of course, the outfits in the exhibit aren't the survivors' real clothes; they are recreations based on the descriptions.

Unfortunately, "What Were You Wearing?" was only on display for a brief time. The Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center, however, plans to create a virtual installation on its website later this fall.

While the exhibit is simple, straightforward, and unbelievably heartbreaking, it's something everyone really needs to see — university students, campus police, cops, school administrators, parents, EVERYONE. Shout it from the rooftops and blast it through social media: sexual assault is NOT caused by a person's wardrobe. Stop the victim blaming once and for all.

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