I came across an exhibition by the name “What She Wore” this past weekend. The purpose of this exhibition was to feature stories of sexual assault and the clothes that rape survivors were wearing when they were attacked.
The exhibition was organized by Setaweet a feminist movement based in Ethiopia that was founded back in 2014. I heard of a similar exhibition that was held around Europe earlier this year, and it is great that they are trying their best to make Ethiopians more aware.
Upon arrival, the team asked us to sign a petition that would aid in increasing the severity of the punishment issued to acid attackers. Acid attacks ( whereby a man splashes either sulphuric acid or hydrochloric acid at a woman’s face ) have been a common atrocious act that men have been picking up on in the hopes of ruining the women in both a physical and mental states. Of course what goes on inside the men’s head’s is beyond my comprehension. The hell women go through is also unimaginable. To find out that the men behind these atrocities get off easy is absolutely outrageous. So it’s remarkable seeing the team working towards bringing justice
Anyways, after signing the petition, I went ahead and started viewing the clothes along with the stories displayed in the exhibition. The pictures and accompanying descriptions can all be found at the end of this post. Feel free to check them out.
When looking into sexual assault the most important thing to question is whether there was consent. Not what the victim did to bring the assault upon themselves. Yet rape culture has people convinced that it’s the latter that has more significance. But absolutely not!
Rape culture is deluding more and more people that the clothes one wears can provoke sexual assault. This exhibition provided ample proof that clothing, in fact, does not. The clothes on display attest to the fact that clothes worn by sexual assault victims are seriously insignificant in regards to why they get attacked. Absolutely none of them were provocative in any way.
Each silently answers the same question, and each appeal to observers to understand that no matter how much skin the outfit worn managed to cover, the result was the same.
Victim-blaming commences as soon as victims start getting questioned about their clothing, their alcohol consumption, and their history. In the hopes of perhaps finding something to place the blame upon. But this is simply detrimental and only ends up diverting the focus away from the sole cause of rape: rapists.
Clearly, this whole process leaves victims questioning themselves and provokes further unnecessary shame. Rather than encouraging other victims to report sexual assaults, the victim-blaming merely does the contrary. Resulting in far fewer rapists being brought to justice, the victim afflicted by the assault.
Leaving a victim to be afflicted by the assault and encouraging self-loathing is not in anyway our duty. I can’t fathom the courage it takes to open up about a sexual assault. Society needs to understand that the only question to ask a victim of sexual assault is “What can I do to help?” Asking a victim what they wore when they were attacked is completely inappropriate, detrimental, and ignorant. Exhibitions like “What She Wore” help put an end to the belief that a victim is in any way responsible for their attack. Steering clear from blaming and shaming victims will empower victims to report their attacks and begin their recovery, without no hint of shame or fear.
Disclosure: viewer’s discretion advised.