“But What Were You Wearing?”

By: Sierra Voorhies

Trigger Warning: rape culture, victim blaming, and sexual assault. 

I’m not quite sure how to start this blog, but I think I will start with the phrase, “What were they wearing?” This is a common question that has been asked in cases of rape and sexual assault, and it perpetuates and supports rape culture. Rape culture is “the belief that victims have contributed to their own victimization and are responsible for what has happened to them” (University of New Hampshire SHARPP). The question “What were you wearing?” implies that someone’s outfit could consent for them to sexual acts, but no matter what someone is wearing, clothing – slutty, provocative, or skimpy – does not give consent for the wearer. Behind this question is the idea that there is some dress, jeans, or some outfit that could make the victim actually the one culpable for the crime against them because they are somehow “asking for it”.

By asking a victim of rape or sexual assault this question, one is placing the blame back on the victim for the crime perpetrated against them. Imagine asking someone, “Why were you wearing that watch? What were you doing in that suit?” This is an outrageous and illogical question,  because it’s obvious in this scenario that the victim does not hold any of the blame for the crime done against them. The same thought must be applied to victims of sexual assault.

In order to bring awareness and growth to the UMKC community, the Women’s Center is doing a display called “What Were They Wearing?” full of outfits that were worn by people when they were assaulted. This display will show how rape culture and victim blaming are part of the rape myth. You can join us on Wednesday April 27 from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. on the second floor of the Student Union, as well as Thursday, April 28 to see the display and get connected with more information. 

Thank you for supporting our programming during Sexual Assault Awareness Month