Exhibit challenges victim blaming

Women’s and Gender Studies presents: “What Were You Wearing?”


Women’s and Gender Studies (WGST) students present the 5th Annual “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit to spread sexual violence awareness and end victim blaming.

The idea for the display originated at the University of Arkansas and was inspired by Mary Simmerling’s poem“What I Was Wearing.” The exhibit was created by Mary Wyandt-Hiebert, the director of campus sexual and relationship violence center at the University of Arkansas, and Jen Brockman.

The exhibit’s motivation stems from the question often posed by law enforcement officers asking victims of sexual assault what they were wearing when the incident occurred.

Associate Professor and Director of WGST at Coastal Carolina University Ina Seethaler said her goal is to push back against the idea that victims bring sexual violence and assault upon themselves. She said this mindset leads to victim shaming, and the exhibit shows that sexual assault occurs while wearing something as normal as a bathing suit or pajamas.

“There’s nothing sexual about pajamas or something as normal as a bathing suit,”Seethaler said. “I think that’s what makes this so powerful, is that most of these are everyday clothing pieces that we all wear.”

She said the WGST Department regularly has people anonymously reach out to say the exhibit was a tough encounter, but they are grateful that they put it up. Seethaler said they have yet to receive any criticism surrounding the project.

Seethaler gives her senior seminar students several options for capstone projects but said all of her students were inspired by this exhibit and wanted to continue it.

Senior Rebekah Miles, marine science major with a WGST minor, said she definitely wanted to continue the display and finds the message behind it both powerful and impactful.

“It can be triggering for some, and even with all of the warning signs that we put up, some people still choose to go through and look at what other people have experienced,” Miles said, “and I think that is a tale of both personal growth and personal strength.”

She said it is nice to see how the project is evolving, as the same display of outfits are chosen from each year, but admitted it’s also sad students have to continue to spread awareness.