“What were you wearing?” This phrase might be composed of four words, but it is anything but simple. This is because it is usually posed to victims of rape in an attempt to discredit them. Because is it time society stop blaming the victims of sexual assault, the University of Florida agreed to host a powerful new art exhibit which reveals exactly what people were wearing before others inflicted their will upon them.
The new exhibit, “What were you wearing?”, was curated by Lazaro Tejera. The fourth-year biology student oversees the Gender and Sexualities in Medicine Committee as part of the school’s American Medical Student Association Chapter, reports CNN. After coming across a similar project launched at the University of Arkanasa in 2013, Tejero felt compelled to install similar at his own school.
“I thought: I have the power, I have the support. Let me reach out to a group on campus that I know to help me with this.”
The activist began by contacting members of STRIVE, a peer education group which focuses on interpersonal violence. Last November, they began to plan the eye-opening exhibit. After setting up an anonymous online submission form, the team received over 36 entries. 12 were chosen to be displayed at the event. Not every outfit was used, but a booklet was published showcasing each submission.
The exhibit will remain open until the end of April. Touring the selection of clothing leads to the comprehension of the victim’s pain. The popular implication is that if they made different wardrobe choices, they wouldn’t have been attacked. This is a toxic notion.
Reads one note, attached to a corresponding outfit: “I was wearing overalls and my favorite T-shirt. I went inside with them because it was summer and I was hot, and they said they had lemonade. I never wore overalls again.”
The exhibit illustrates how survivors oftentimes feel helpless about the circumstances that led to their assault. It also helps to dispel the notion that victims are somehow personally responsible for what happened to them.
“For me personally, it’s definitely been eye-opening to the realities of sexual assault,” Tejera said. “You hear about cases of assault every so often in the media or friends, but to read all of those submissions and physically recreate them through clothing made me realize that this really can happen to anyone, anywhere, by anyone.”
Tejera hopes to make the event an annual one on campus.
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