Shattering sexual assault myths: ‘What Were You Wearing?’ exhibit launches at Dixie State

Gallery of clothing portraying the outfit worn by sexual assault victims is showcased during "What Were You Wearing?" exhibit at Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, April 2 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — In an area cordoned off in the main floor lobby of Dixie State University’s Holland Building, a compelling visual presentation designed to crush the myth that a person’s wardrobe is the cause of sexual violence launched Monday.

More than 100 people gather at Dixie State University’s “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit, St. George, Utah, April 2 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The name of the exhibit is “What Were You Wearing?” and it reflects the question survivors are often asked after a sexual assault, a question that implies that their clothing was somehow responsible for the attack.

The question is also based on faulty reasoning that places the blame on the victim and relieves the attacker of responsibility, according to information obtained during the presentation.

The exhibit features outfits hanging above a white card containing a rape survivor’s story detailing the clothing they had on and what they were doing when they were attacked.

Hosted by the Dixie State University’s Women’s Resource Center and the Dove Center, “What Were You Wearing?” debuted Monday at 3 p.m. with an open house that included several speakers, followed by an opportunity for attendees to view the gallery of clothing while refreshments were served.

Dixie State University’s Women’s Resource Center and the Dove Center hosts “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit at Dixie State, St. George, Utah, April 2 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The project was featured at Dixie State with the help of a Dove Center victim’s advocate, Elizabeth Bluhm, who wanted to bring the display to St. George in the hope that it would help to dispel the myth that a person’s clothing has anything to do with a violent act committed by one individual upon another.

Bluhm’s sights are set on changing the sexual assault statistics, particularly in Utah, where one in three women will become a victim of sexual assault during their lifetime, according to the Utah Department of Health.

Those who have participated in the project show the range of individuals targeted by sexual predators, including children, individuals with disabilities and both men and women of various ages, sizes and races.

The gallery of apparel includes cargo shorts, sweatshirts, exercise clothing, jeans and dresses. However, they are not the actual clothing worn by the victims when the attack took place but rather donated clothing selected based on the victim’s description. One display tells of a survivor who was wearing designer jeans, her mother’s BYU sweatshirt and white Keds tennis shoes when she was attacked by a friend of her brother’s.

One of the event’s speakers, 17-year-old Snow Canyon High School student Alyssa Ferguson, told the story of being attacked less than one year ago.

Refreshments are served during “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit held at Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, April 2 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

“About 10 months ago, I experienced an awful, manipulative and unimaginable act,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson also added that the ramifications of the assault has had far-reaching implications that are still present today, including being afraid to go on dates.

Ferguson said the clothes she was wearing are somewhere in the display, but the identities of the victims for each piece are kept anonymous.

“What Were You Wearing?” is scheduled to run for three weeks, the first event opened Monday, followed by a 3 p.m. showing on April 9 in Dixie State’s Eccles Fine Art Center lobby, and April 16 at the Taylor Health Science Center located at 1526 S. Medical Center Drive, in lobby 1-F.

The art project was created in 2013 by Jen Brockman, the director of the University of Kansas’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center, and Mary A. Wyandt-Hiebert, who oversees all programming initiatives at the University of Arkansas’ rape education center. The installation has been featured at many college and university campuses since.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.  

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • comments April 4, 2018 at 12:34 am

    I must say I don’t like the premise of it. Something like “women get attacked whether they dress slutty or not”? You could go as far as to tack onto that “so why not just go ahead and dress slutty.” Women are obviously more vulnerable than men to assault. What they need is mandatory classes for these high school and college kids about the dangers of binge drinking. Responsibility really needs to go both ways, and that does not excuse an assailant, but if you’re a young woman planning to go to a binge drinking party with the entire football team, well, we’d hope common sense would come into play, but it often doesn’t. College and hs age “kids” can be very idiotic, very naive, and very…you know. That said, it’s all fine and well if they want to put on a sexual assault expo, but this angle strikes me as ridiculous. Anyone here ever heard of something called a “slut walk” or “slut parade”?

    • comments April 4, 2018 at 12:40 am

      plus “rape culture” is a myth perpetuated by ultra-misandrist lesbians. no joke

    • theone April 4, 2018 at 10:00 am

      You have pretty much summed up what a disgusting mindset you dwell in. Go read some actual studies about rape and educate yourself before making a fool of yourself.
      Rape is not something anyone asks for no matter the circumstance.

      • comments April 4, 2018 at 12:35 pm

        theone, you’re the exact type of person who’d participate in a “slut walk”, am I right?

        • theone April 4, 2018 at 1:31 pm

          I don’t know how you can even equate rape with an imaginary walk. You need help.

      • comments April 4, 2018 at 1:13 pm

        there’s a select type of women that want to do whatever they please and never have to deal with consequences for their actions. There is never an excuse for rape, but there comes a time when common sense needs to be instilled. We keep hearing about “the evils of the patriarchy”, but we live in a time when young women need responsible and caring father figures more than ever. Young women can naturally be quite naive as to the male thought processes and sex drive (again, never an excuse for predatory behavior), but protective male figures in a woman’s life are in no way obsolete, even though many modern hardcore ultra-misandrist feminists would have women believe otherwise. The clothing that a victim was wearing when she was assaulted is relevant why, especially examples that are quite modest? I just don’t understand the message they’re trying to push here.

        • theone April 4, 2018 at 3:37 pm

          Not sure how you conclude there’s a select type of woman that do whatever they please when it is the right of a woman or anyone to do as they please as long as it brings no harm to themselves or others. Instead of inserting a male figure lets just say a good role model that can mentor young people both male and female to not treat each other badly, like raping someone. You have a failed view when it comes to common sense in the treatment of one another since rape is wrong no matter what. Stay home bob, you’re a black eye to society.

          • comments April 4, 2018 at 4:27 pm

            Again, you can only see it from a female perspective. If an attractive young woman were to dress scantily, go downtown and get drunk, and walk home still mostly drunk thru darkened ally’s in a bad part of town, what do we say about this? We say it’s irresponsible. We wonder what she was thinking. Fact is, societal norms can change; human nature does not. Again, you a childishly naive and only see the world thru your feminized and ignorant view of human nature.

          • comments April 4, 2018 at 4:29 pm

            So what does it have to do with anything if a woman was dressed modestly at the time she was assaulted? I still need it explained to me.

          • comments April 4, 2018 at 4:30 pm

            How and why is it relevant?

          • comments April 4, 2018 at 4:37 pm

            According to this article it has NOTHING to do with it. I’ve never heard any man say he thought it was ok to assault a woman bc of how she was dressed. So to women, don’t just consider what clothing your wearing; consider the types of situations you put yourself in that could lead to being victimized. There will always be men who are opportunists and predators. It’s part of the nature of the species (yeah, it is). “Theone”, for the 3rd time: you are naive.

          • jaybird April 4, 2018 at 8:07 pm

            And so, if a man were to get drunk and walk down thzt same street wearing shorts without a shirt, you would not help him home or expect he is “asking” to get sexually assaulted? Comments, YOU are stale and too old to make comment here. Get woke old goat.

  • comments April 4, 2018 at 8:30 pm


    anyone who says “get woke” is simply not worth dealing with. I hope, at the very least, that you’re a black man, jaybird.

    because any white wigger kid saying “get woke” really needs to get a clue, or grow a brain.

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