What was she wearing? This display of rape victims' clothes proves truth about assault

The clothes, which were worn by real life victims at the time of the rape, range from pyjamas to a child's My Little Pony T-shirt.
What was she wearing? This display of rape victims' clothes proves truth about assault
What was she wearing? This display of rape victims' clothes proves truth about assault
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The implication is that if the victim was dressed a certain way, she could have been "asking for it".

An exhibition in Brussels in trying to debunk this very notion by displaying clothes worn by rape victims at the time they were attacked.

The clothes include pyjamas, track pants, dresses and even a My Little Pony t-shirt which belonged to a child.

Called 'Is it my fault?', the exhibition aims to dispel the "stubborn myth" that a woman's clothing is in any way responsible for the assault on her, Flanders News reported.

"What you immediately notice is that these are all very normal items that anyone would wear and not extreme latex suits," Liesbeth Kennes, who works with victim-support group CAW East Brabant, told VRT1 radio.

Liesbeth, who was a child victim, added, "The so-called 'victim blaming' occurs in both directions. Assailants would, for example, say against their victims, 'How did you dress at that moment?’ or 'How did you act up — you were so drunk?' A victim of sexual violence will often ask themselves if they were part of it; for example, if it was their outfit or the way they behaved at that moment."

The inclination to shame the victim instead of the perpetrator is common in patriarchal societies across the world. Closer home, in India, politicians are known to repeatedly make insensitive and sexist comments about sexual assault and their survivors.

Last year, Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi said that women who step out of their homes without their husbands or fathers after sunset, do not deserve respect. He went on to say, "If there is petrol somewhere, it can catch fire easily. If there is sugar somewhere, ants will come."

In 2014, Asha Mirge, a woman politician from Maharashtra, blamed the clothing of women for rapes.

Asha, who was also a member of the Maharashtra Women's Rights Commission, said, "Did Nirbhaya really have to go to watch a movie at 11 in the night with her friend? Take the Shakti Mills gang-rape case. Why did the (survivor) go to such an isolated spot at 6 pm? Rapes take place also because of a woman's clothes, her behaviour and her being at inappropriate places."

Not only are such statements highly inappropriate, experts dismiss them as baseless.

"Women's wardrobes have long been used as an excuse for sex crimes, however, when you look at the data on why people rape, that doesn't hold up,” Sandra Shullman, PhD, a psychologist who specialises in harassment and hostile work environments, told Yahoo Lifestyle. "One study showed that rapists stated clothing as the reason for their crimes but their victims were wearing a range of outfits from revealing to snowsuits. These are arguments to transfer the responsibility of control and power from the perpetrator to the victim."

Ultimately clothes do not rape, people do, and as Liesbeth aptly puts it, "There is only one person responsible, one person who could prevent rape: the perpetrator."

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