What Were You Wearing?

At colleges and universities around the country, it has been reported that two-thirds of college students experience sexual harassment. Studies have also found approximately 26% of all female undergraduate students, and nearly 7% of all male undergraduate students, have experienced sexual assault.

Survivors of sexual assault are often asked, “What were you wearing?” This form of victim-blaming has created a negative experience for survivors. Asking a survivor about what they were wearing implies that they did something wrong to invoke the attack.

The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion would like to host an exhibit that displays and features stories of sexual violence and representation of what a victim was wearing at the time of their assault. The intent of the exhibit would be to remove the negative connotation of victim-blaming and debunk this myth that what an individual was wearing was “their fault.”

The What You Were Wearing exhibit is a national program that many colleges and universities host. The exhibit’s goal is to bring a greater awareness of the myths surrounding survivors of sexual assault, and that what they were wearing has no bearing on being assaulted. 

Inspired by a poem written by Dr. Mary Simmerling (called “What I Was Wearing”), the project was conceptualized at the University of Arkansas by Jen Brockman and Dr. Mary Wyandt-Hiebert. With Simmerling’s permission, they worked to create a visual representation of the poem and developed a framework for the installation. The first “What Were You Wearing? Survivor Art Installation” was held in April 2014 for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Leading up to the exhibit, Brockman and Wyandt-Hiebert started collecting stories from student-survivors at the University of Arkansas. Student-survivors voluntarily shared brief descriptions of what they were wearing when they experienced sexual violence during personal interviews with Brockman and Wyandt-Hiebert. The clothing for the Installation was donated by Peace At Home Thrift Store in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
What I was Wearing Poem

What Were You Wearing Exhibit

April is sexual assault awareness month. It will be the goal to display the exhibit in an exhibit area on campus that will highlight featured stories shared by survivors of sexual assault. The Executive Director of DEI will solicit shared stories of survivors within the Blackburn community and surrounding area (students, staff, faculty, and community members). These shared stories will remain anonymous and on a volunteer basis. The Executive Director of DEI will launch a campaign in partnership with Marketing and Public Relations. In addition, the Executive Director of DEI will partner with the Art department to facilitate and coordinate the actual exhibit for display.

The exhibit will be displayed for three days for participants to view from April 26, 2023 through April 28, 2023. On the first day of the exhibit at 12:00 p.m. in the ADR, a featured presenter will share their account of a sexual assault they experienced. The presenter will provide a shared account of their experience while highlighting “What they were wearing” and how they have overcome the assault through support and resources, and they will answer questions.


Reporting Contacts

What Were You Wearing Submission Form

Do you have a story you want to share to add to our Installation of the What Were You Wearing Art exhibit? Fill out our form and share your story today.