As rape and sexual assault victims grapple with life post-trauma, one of the loaded questions that is sometimes asked is, “What were you wearing?”
The unstated but troubling implication is that if the clothes worn were provocative enough, then that may affect the level of sympathy offered.
But, as an exhibit in Belgium proves, the question is useless, and harmful, in determining a motive for rape.
Called, “What were you wearing?” the exhibit at the Centre Communautaire Maritime in Brussels features replicated clothing items similar to those worn by real victims of sexual assault, and attempts to disprove the myth that provocative clothing incites rape.
Replicated from descriptions of clothing worn the night survivors were attacked, the exhibit proves that clothing never justifies or incites rape.
Featuring items such as pyjamas, tracksuits, even a child’s My Little Pony shirt, the exhibit shows clothing as innocent as the victims themselves.
The organisation behind the exhibit, the prevention service of Molenbeek, opened the exhibit to "create a tangible response to one of our most pervasive rape culture myths" because "The belief that clothing or what someone what wearing 'causes' rape is extremely damaging for survivors."
With the exhibit, the organisation wants to prove that a person’s outfit can never be seen as a mitigating circumstance or provocation by a rapist.
According to Lieshbeth Kennes, a training and counselling employee of CAW, who spoke to VRT1 Radio, “What you immediately notice when you walk around here is they are all very normal pieces that everyone would wear.”
And, referencing the My Little Pony shirt, Kennes states: “The exhibition is also a harsh reality: most victims of rape still know exactly what they were wearing at the time.”
The exhibition, which can be seen at the community centre of Molenbeek in Brussels, is open from January 8 to 20.
The Independent has reached out to the community centre for comment.
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