Sexual assault charity hopes 'What Were You Wearing' installation will help stamp out victim blaming

College Lane Campus, University of Hertfordshire. Picture: Google Streetview

College Lane Campus, University of Hertfordshire. Picture: Google Streetview - Credit: Google Streetview

A Letchworth-based rape support charity has teamed up with the University of Hertfordshire for a thought-provoking installation, entitled 'What Were You Wearing?'.

The exhibition by the Red Kite charity will feature facsimiles of the clothes people were wearing when they were raped or sexually assaulted, alongside testimonies from the victims. 

The team at Red Kite are particularly keen to reach victims in the Letchworth area, which records a

The team at Red Kite - Credit: Red Kite

It aims to stamp out the idea that someone's clothing could contribute to a perpetrator's decision to assault them. 

Red Kite chair Siobhan Nundram said: "The point it that it demonstrates that it doesn’t matter what a person was wearing. If someone else decides to sexually assault or rape them they will. We are trying to myth bust about women in particular ‘asking for it’ because of what they chose to wear.

"The issue of rape and sexual assault is everybody's business. The more that people know about the culture and the stigma around it, and breaking down those barriers around the guilt, shame and blame victims feel, the better it will be for everybody.

"The hope is this will start a conversation and people can break down the misogyny in society which rape and sexual assault thrives on."

The exhibition will also be led by Dr Mateja Vuk, lecturer in criminology at the University's Law School, who said: “Studies show that the vast majority of survivors do not report sexual victimisation due to fear, shame, and self-blame.

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"Using a visual representation of survivors’ stories, we want the visitors to see themselves reflected in the outfits and narratives to challenge prejudices against victims.

"By validating and believing survivors’ stories, we are moving away from blaming them for violence and we are shifting responsibility on those who caused harm.

"It is never about the clothes. What should be the focus, however, is our society that makes it acceptable to ask 'what were you wearing' in the first place.” 

What Were You Wearing? was created originally by Jen Brockman and Dr Mary Wyandt-Hiebert from the University of Arkansas. They were inspired by Dr Mary Simmerling’s poem What I Was Wearing, which describes her own experience of rape.

The installation at The Chapman Lounge on the College Lane Campus opens at 10am on November 1, and will remain from 9am to 5pm until November 5.

It is open for both students and local residents to attend. Red Kite will be present throughout the week to support the students and staff who are curating the piece.