What Were You Wearing?
An exhibition of statements and clothing from survivors of sexual violence which challenges the most pervasive rape culture myth, proving that clothing has nothing to do with sexual assault.
Exhibition Dates: October 21, 2019 - November 14, 2019
Opening Reception: Thursday, October 24, 6 pm - 8 pm
Even today, with the strides we have made to support survivors of sexual assault, the one recurring question still asked of nearly every survivor is “What were you wearing?”
The What Were You Wearing? Art Installation seeks to dispel the myth that a person was sexually assaulted because of the clothes they were wearing. To ask this question implies that the survivor could have prevented their own sexual assault if they had just worn something that was less revealing or sexy. It lays the blame on the victim instead of where it rightfully belongs: on the perpetrator.
This installation challenges participants to engage with the universal connection we have with clothing and reflect on what gives this specific rape culture myth so much power. It asks participants to understand that it was never about the clothing and that the act of shedding those clothes is never enough to bring peace or comfort to survivors. The violation is not simply woven in to the fabric of the material, it is a part of the survivor's new narrative. If only ending sexual violence was as easy as changing our clothes. Instead it requires all of us to evaluate what enabled us as individuals and as a society to ask, “What were you wearing?” in the first place.
Inspired by the poem What I Was Wearing by Dr. Mary Simmerling, Jen Brockman, and Dr. Mary Wyandt-Hiebert created the What Were You Wearing? art installation in 2013 with the first showing taking place at the University of Arkansas in April 2014. Since then, similar What Were You Wearing? exhibits have been created in dozens of US cities and over 50 countries around the world.