“Why were you out so late?” “Who were you with?” “Were you drunk?” and, of course, “What were you wearing?”
As rape and sexual assault victims grapple with life post-trauma, one of the loaded questions that is sometimes asked is, “What were you wearing?”
The unstated but troubling implication is that if the clothes worn were provocative enough, then that may affect the level of sympathy offered.
But, as an exhibit in Belgium proves, the question is useless, and harmful, in determining a motive for rape.
The survivor is made to believe that they were “asking for it” and victim shaming soon takes over. The ugly monster that we all know too well as ‘societal conventions’ rears its ugly head, arches its eyebrows, wags a finger menacingly and states with utmost vehemence – “they were asking for it”. Naturally, faced with such backlash and criticism, survivors of rape often tend to keep quiet and this, in turn, emboldens the rapists. And the cycle goes on.
To break this myth that its the survivor’s clothes that ‘warrant’ such behaviour, the Centre Communautaire Maritime in Brussels has put up an exhibition featuring clothes worn by the rape survivors.“What you immediately notice when you walk around here is they are all very normal pieces that everyone would wear,” said Lieshbeth Kennes, a training and counselling employee of CAW to VRT1 Radio, according to The Independent.
“The exhibition is also a harsh reality: most victims of rape still know exactly what they were wearing at the time,” Kennes adds.
For the record, and to make things absolutely clear in case anyone still had any doubts – rape is a crime committed by a rapist, a disgusting human being and is never warranted. Period.