"Who were you with?", "How late was it?", "How much did you have to drink?" - these are the questions that a woman gets asked when she decides to report an act of sexual assault. And as the questions clearly reveal, we think it is ALWAYS the woman's fault that she got attacked, and not the man's fault for attacking her.
However, if there's one question that most clueless men in power love to use as a weapon, against women who get sexually harassed, is "What were you wearing?". Because clearly, it was the shape of the fabric that she wore on her skin that enticed the men and lured them. And not the sick and disgusting mindset that their brains are stewing in, right?
Keeping this very question in mind, an exhibition in the Molenbeek district of Brussels, Belgium, titled 'What were you wearing?' is tackling one of the most pervasive myths of rape culture: that a survivor’s clothing makes them in any way reproachable for the attack.
Inspired by the poem, “What I Was Wearing…” by Dr. Mary Simmerling, the “What Were You Wearing?” Student-Survivor Art Installation was first held at Kansas University in September 2017 and focused on displays that represented sexual assault survivors' answers to this persistent question regarding their attire, at the time of the attack. The exhibition in Molenbeek was recreated based on the same installation and consists of 18 outfits based on statements by rape survivors in Kansas University.
"The belief that clothing, or what someone was wearing, 'causes' rape is extremely damaging for survivors", said Delphine Goossens, Molenbeek prevention service's project manager. "The intention was to create a tangible response to one of our most pervasive rape culture myths".
Among the clothes that were displayed are dresses, track pants, pyjamas, trousers, a police uniform, and even a 'My Little Pony' t-shirt - all clear pieces of evidence of the fact that when an assault occurs, the victim's attire has nothing to do with the act, ever. The exhibition aims to make people think about the stereotypes we brand on rapists and survivors and throw our assumptions - such as the way a person was behaving or the amount of alcohol they had consumed - right out the window.
"We would like people to understand that every woman could wear what they want and they shouldn't be attacked. That's what the exhibition shows: no outfit can prevent rape", added Goossens.
For every person out there who STILL believes that a woman's attire is what causes rape, how do you explain the innocent babies who get raped; the young girls who don't even have fully formed genitalia for the filthy minds of men to be 'lured' by? How do you explain the women clad in full-sleeved clothes, and burqas, that cover every inch of their body and still get raped?
Are they, then, also supposed to be asked: "What were you wearing?"
Images: Daily Mail, Centre Communautaire Maritime