‘What Were You Wearing?’ More Than Just Clothes

Powerful exhibit debunks the misconception that one’s clothes influence sexual assault

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The Center for Sexual and Relationship Violence Support Services uses this time to reinforce Kent State University’s mission to provide a safe and welcoming community for students to share their stories, to provide help and support and to educate the community.

The powerful “What Were You Wearing?” art installation in the Center for Visual Arts on the Kent Campus is more than just clothes. After three years, the installation has grown.  

Kent State University faculty, staff, students and community submitted anonymous stories, some including their age, relationship and the time that the assault occurred, along with a description of what they were wearing at the time. The center's staff then takes great care to recreate the outfits and display them with the story.  

Jennifer O’Connell, director of the center, said a benefit of the installation for survivors is that it helps remove victim blaming, and it helps them share their stories in an empowering way.  

“For the general community, it shows what someone wears does not cause them to be assaulted. Responsibility lies solely in the other person,” O’Connell said.  

The exhibit aims to debunk the common myth that one’s clothes influence sexual assault.  

“It increases empathy and understanding of the trauma others in our community have experienced, and it helps viewers realize that one does not always know one’s full story,” O’Connell said. “Being understanding and supportive as a university is so important.” 

Learn more about the Center for Sexual and Relationship Violence Support Services.

Learn more about Sexual Assault Awareness Month. 

POSTED: Thursday, April 18, 2024 08:40 AM
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2024 11:10 AM
Francesca Malinky, Flash Communications
Francesca Malinky