‘What were you wearing?’ art exhibit takes aim at sexual assault myth

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – An art installation at Friends University is aiming to shatter the myth that sexual violence is caused by a person’s outfit.

The exhibit called “What Were You Wearing” showcases about 20 wardrobes. The wardrobes are inspired by what sexual assault victims were wearing when they were attacked. Next to the clothing is a short story describing what the victim went through.

“A sundress,” one description reads. “Months later my mother would stand in front of my closet and complain about how I never wore any of my dresses anymore. I was 6 years old.”

Another one reads, “Army ACU’s and I was carrying a gun. So much for that preventing anything.”

“Our society gives us this stereotype of these people and often women who are wearing these mini dresses and tight clothes and we have this phrase that they are asking for it and no one is ever asking for this,” said Harbor House Admissions Intake Specialist Christy Apisa. “What this shows is these are people just living their normal lives. They are wearing gym clothes. They are wearing children’s clothes. These are people of all ages, living their lives and having something happen to them that they never deserved and never asked for.”

The intent of the installation is to create a tangible response to the belief that clothing or what someone was wearing causes rape.

“This can happen to anyone at anytime and that’s what we would like to change,” Apisa said.

“It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. It can happen to anyone at anytime,” said Friends University junior Addie DuLac.

The art exhibit is organized by Friends University in association with Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center and Harbor House. The stories were collected from university students through social media campaigns and rape victim advocacy centers.

Addie DuLac helped put the exhibit together. She said it’s still difficult for her to walk through the display.

“It’s a little startling and it really makes you think and wonder it could be you at anytime. It could be one of your friends. It could be someone you sit next to at class. You just really have to pay attention,” DuLac said. “It’s hard to hear because it makes it very real that this is happening in Wichita, Kansas.”

DuLac said she hopes the display encourages victims to speak out.

“To help raise awareness that this is a real thing and to stop victim blaming. Our culture really likes to victim blame and it can happen to anyone at anytime. I just hope to be a voice for those that it did happen to that are afraid to come forward,” she said.

The installation is located inside the Casado Campus Center at Friends University. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m through November 18.


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