"What Were You Wearing?" Exhibit to Raise Sexual Assault Awareness

“Well, what were you wearing?”

This is an infuriatingly common question directed at victims of sexual assault or harassment, as if the clothing on their body is somehow a justification for the crime that was committed. This question conveys the idea that a low neckline, short shirt, or tight dress is an acceptable excuse for the perpetrator’s actions, and blames the victim.

To dispel this myth, Dixie State University in Utah opened an exhibit entitled “What Were You Wearing?” that showcases the clothes worn by survivors when they were sexually assaulted. Clothing such as men’s button-down shirts, jeans, and a toddler’s nightgown are just some of the pieces on display, and each outfit is accompanied by a short description of the victim’s story. 

This powerful visual completely destroys the notion that a victim’s outfit is the reason for assault to take place. The jarring example of a toddler’s pink nightgown on display is saddening, but is also a deeply impactful reminder that sexual assault is prevalent at all ages. A toddler wasn't “asking for it” when they were dressed in a nightgown, just as how a woman in her 20s wearing a skirt wasn't “asking for it” either.

Florence Bacabac, director of DSU's Women's Resource Center, described the exhibit in this statement:

"It's not about what people wear, who they are, where they were at time, what their identities are, or even about their decisions or decisions they didn't make — it's about who caused the harm." 

This exhibit is just one of the many displays and demonstrations taking place during April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Check it out in the Hemmingson Rotunda!