A new exhibit on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence displays 18 innocuous outfits — accompanied by a brief explanation from the sexual assault victims who were wearing them at the time they were attacked.
“White T-shirt and basketball shorts,” read one of the displays. “It was always the same outfit. It was always after rec center league. I trusted him. My mom trusted him.”
Another display showed a simple red and white striped sun dress.
“A sun dress,” read the accompanying note. “Months later, my mom would stand in front of my closet and complain about how I never wore my dresses anymore. I was six years old.”
The exhibit was timed to coincide with the beginning of the school year, which is when rates of gender-based violence on campus are highest, explained Jen Brockman, the creator of the exhibit and the director of KU’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center. With the display, she added, she hoped to “confront and disrupt” false narratives around sexual assault, and to help raise awareness among students and others who might not realize that “proximity is the greatest predictor of violent crime.”
“We wanted students, or anyone, to walk into the show and to see themselves reflected in the outfits … and put the blame where it belongs, which is on the person who’s caused the harm,” Brockman said.