‘What Were You Wearing?’ exhibit at UNL ‘opens people’s minds’ on sexual assault

Event aims to end stereotypes about victims of sexual assault

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – About ¼ of female undergraduate students will be sexually assaulted, along with about 7% of males, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln showcased an art exhibit on Wednesday that recreated the outfits that survivors were wearing when they were sexually assaulted.

“I think it really opens people’s minds up,” said Melissa Wilkerson of UNL’s Center for Advocacy, Response & Education. “I think it kind of helps them check themselves, if you will, and realize, ‘Wow, I really thought that I knew who sexual violence impacts.’ ”

This is the first time the event has been held at UNL, but the “What Were You Wearing?” idea came from a poem written by Mary Simmerling, who was a sexual assault victim, in 2013.

Since then, many similar exhibits have been held nationwide.

The event aimed to show that sexual assault can happen to anyone at any time.

There were 32 outfits on display, and each outfit represented a UNL student’s personal story.

“I think they want to have their story told so that they’re represented,” Wilkerson said. “So that their story helps, even if it’s one person, have a better understanding of what’s really going on.”

The outfits ranged from a sundress for a 6-year-old to an armed forces uniform.

Hana Pham, a UNL CARE student worker said, “A lot of people on our campus can fall victim to sexual assault and can feel like maybe if they did something slightly differently or presented themselves a different way, they could’ve avoided that scenario for themselves.”

Wilkerson said most of the people who have walked through the display were shocked to see the stories and clothing.

She also said a group that attended the event said the outfits were inclusive and seemed like they were normal clothes, which is not what they had expected.

April is sexual assault awareness month, and CARE has more events planned for the rest of the month.

The events are free to the public, and Wilkerson said they can be great learning experiences.

“I feel like everyone ought to get involved because there’s something we all can do,” she said. “Together, we can make a difference, and together we can change the culture.”

To find more of the events this month, visit the UNL CARE website.

Categories: Education News, Lancaster, News, Top Stories