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"What Were You Wearing?"

What I Was Wearing

The poem "What I was Wearing" by Dr. Mary Simmerling was the inspiration behind the origination of "What Were You Wearing?" at the University of Kansas, by Jen Brockman and Dr. Mary Wyandt-Hiebert.

The following narratives, provided by survivors of sexual assault, address the question, "What Were You Wearing?" The goal of this installation is to distinguish between reality and the pervasive myth that clothing choice elicits sexual assault.  The question  evokes blame and places the onus on survivors to defend themselves for what happened to them.

This visual representation of the responses to "What Were You Wearing?" is intended to realize the weight of this question from an advocacy lens, and challenge viewers to separate survivors from the burden of blame implied by asking "What Were You Wearing?"

We ask viewers to reflect on those questions while viewing the following gallery. 

Please be mindful of your own emotions and refer to the resources provided below for support. Thank you.

Niagara University Office for Equity & Inclusion (OEI):
Private, but not confidential. 
Megan Altman-Cosgrove, Title IX Coordinator
Call: 716-286-8314
Office: O’Shea Hall B27

Niagara University Counseling Services:

YWCA: 24-Hour Crisis Hotline
Call or Text: 716-433-6716

YWCA Victim's Advocate:
Rachel Sandle-Sacco
Call: 716-433-6714 ext. 235

National Sexual Assault Hotline:
800-656-HOPE (4673)

Loveisrespect: Relationship Violence Hotline:

This digital installation contains descriptions of sexual violence.  Please utilize self-care as needed and contact Title IX Coordinator Megan Altman-Cosgrove for accommodations or resources; or the YWCA 24-hour Confidential Crisis Hotline by phone or text: 716.433.6716

I was 14. I was at home. My mom wasn’t there and at the time she was married to a guy who abused alcohol. I was in a white t-shirt and hand-me-down boxer briefs. We don’t choose to be in scenarios that harm us. We don’t get to handpick the people that come into our lives. It’s never fair, ‘asked for,’ or justified.
The first time I was wearing jeans and a blue t-shirt. The next time, years later, I was wearing jeans and a blue t-shirt. I wear blue sometimes when I kickbox or when I need to be assertive. Even today I am wearing blue, because they don’t get to take my voice, my favorite color, or my ability to say no and mean it. These are mine
(1)White/black striped top and black skirt. It was in basement study room of a frat house. (2) Green dress. My friend was too drunk to drive so I let him crash at our apartment. (3) Usually running shorts and t-shirt by my abusive boyfriend. He would yell at me until he got what he wanted
A t-shirt and jeans. I was totally drunk after my first college party my freshman year. He shouldn’t have taken advantage of me being messed up like he did.
It was February so I was wearing an oversized sweatshirt and jeans. We were drinking and the friend who hosted the party told me I needed to stay over because I was too drunk to drive. The next day I woke up in his bed with no pants on.
Probably a little sundress, that’s what I always wore. I was four years old. The worst part was it was from my brother, my own family member.
Pajamas. Pajamas when I was 8, 9, and 10. Pajamas when I was 13. Pajamas when I was 17. The dark is my biggest fear to this day.
I was in middle school and only ever wore t-shirts with sweatshirts and jeans. I didn’t even know what molestation was.
I was wearing jean shorts and a tank top. He wouldn’t let me out of his car until he finished. As soon as I got home, I threw that shirt in the trash.
Shorts and a tank top. I was walking home from a friend’s place on the well-lit bike trail. It was a 2-minute walk, I thought I was safe.
I missed a couple days of work after it happened. When I told my boss, she asked me this question. I said, ‘A t-shirt and jeans bitch, what do you wear to a basketball game?” I walked out and never came back.
(1) Jeans and a t-shirt at 18 years old
(2) Children’s dress by my cousin’s father at 5 years old
(3) Dress – I thought I was safe with a woman but woke up to her raping me, too.
Jeans and an oversized tie dye shirt. She was like a sister to me. There has never been anything like that between us. Then it was like a switch flipped in her and all of a sudden what I didn’t want didn’t matter.
Leggings and a hairband. They matched. He liked the leggings. Told me they looked good on me. I felt so honored to have his attention. Except he was not the nice guy I thought he was. It all happened so fast. I was so scared.
Jean shirt, jeans, and Toms. Everyone seems so confused when I tell them this. Like they can’t understand what I am saying. They can’t understand what I was wearing. It’s almost funny. Almost.
I was wearing khaki shorts and a cotton tank top. He convinced me to come back to his house with him after a lame date. I was told by a friend to keep the clothes I was wearing incase I decided to report it. They are still in a bag hidden in my closet.
Khakis and a dress shirt. I had to give a presentation that day in my communications class. They took my clothes at the hospital during my rape exam. I’m not sure what happened to them.
A cute mini-dress. I loved the moment I saw it. I had some killer heels, too. I just wanted to have a good time that night, look cute, and hang with my sisters. He kept getting me shots, over and over again. The next thing I remember is crawling around on the floor looking for that stupid dress.
Blue Pajamas. I wasn’t feeling well and he came over to ‘take care of me.’ I trusted him and he raped me.
Black dress pants and a white shirt. I was getting ready to go to work, he started being flirty in the bathroom. When I nudged him and told him I didn’t have time right now, it got out of hand really fast.
A black skirt and red sweater. They were my roommate’s; she let me borrow them for my date. I was so excited, I really liked him. I thought he was a nice guy. But when I said slow down and cried, he didn’t stop.
Sweats, a university shirt, and a ball cap. We were just going to be hanging out as usual, drinking and watching a movie. I drank way too much and woke up with him on top of me.
Just cotton school dresses. My step-father would sometimes molest me after school until my mom got home from work. Later, when my boyfriend raped me in college, I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. We had just come back from watching a football game.
A Bohemian skirt and top. Nothing fancy. I’d worn that outfit a dozen times before. I always thought I was safe because I didn’t wear ‘those’ kinds of clothes. I guess my rapist didn’t get the memo.
White t-shirt and black basketball shorts. It was always the same outfit. It was always after rec center league. I trusted him. My mom trusted him.