An exhibition has opened in Brussels that displays the kind of clothing rape victims wore when they were attacked -- and it’s about time we tried to dispel the myth that rape is about what the victim was wearing. 'What were you wearing?' is the name of the exhibition which was organised by the prevention service of Molenbeek, the title echoes a question those who assume rape has something to do with the victim’s choices might ask.
Walking around the exhibition visitors will see T-Shirts, tracksuit bottoms, and a child’s top.
Rape victims voluntarily contributed brief descriptions of what they were wearing when they experienced sexual violence, and these descriptions were used to source clothing for the exhibition.
'The outfits displayed in the installation are not the actual clothing worn by the survivors, but a visual representation of their stories,' Delphine Goossens, project manager for the prevention service of Molenbeek told The Debrief in an email.
‘What you immediately notice is that these are all very normal items that anyone would wear and not extreme latex suits,’ said Liesbeth Kennis, a support worker from CAW, in an interview with Belgian radio channel VRT Radio 1.
‘There is even a child’s My Little Pony t-shirt in the exhibition. This too is the harsh reality. Most rape victims remember exactly what they were wearing when they were attacked,’ she added.
‘There is only one person responsible, one person who could prevent rape: the perpetrator.’
The truth is that it doesn’t matter what the victim was wearing when they were attacked – latex suit or baggy jeans and a jumper – too often we waste time looking at the victim instead of the perpetrator, and the odious rape culture that is still pervasive across the world.
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The assumption that someone who flirts, wears revealing clothing or drinks alcohol is at all to blame if they become a victim of sexual assault is not only incorrect, it reveals a deep-seated ignorance.
Every year in England and Wales alone 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped, estimate Rape Crisis, and nearly half a million adults are sexually assaulted. 1 in 5 women aged 16 - 59 has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16.
Hopefully this exhibition will go some way towards educating people who still think rape victims ‘ask for it’ by wearing revealing clothing, but there’s more work to be done.
The exhibition will be on until January 20 in the Martime Community Centre in Sit-Jans-Molenbeek.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.