WARNING: This exhibit can be emotionally triggering for people impacted by sexual assault. If you would like to speak with a victim’s advocate for support, please call DOVE Center’s 24/7 Helpline:


What Were You Wearing Exhibit 

The purpose of this exhibit is to dispel a victim-blaming myth that clothing somehow invites a sexual assault. Victims of crime are not responsible for crimes committed against them. Survivors of rape/sexual assault are often asked, “What were you wearing?” We need to stop asking this. We encourage you to look at these stories and outfits of local survivors to see that clothing is irrelevant when it comes to sexual assault. As you read what these survivors shared, please take a moment to reconsider what may be your own long-held beliefs about sexual assault that are, in reality, myths and stereotypes that can aid perpetrators of crime in avoiding accountability for their choices.

2022 Exhibit

“I was wearing capris and a tie dye t-shirt. Two guys in my class sexually assaulted me on a school trip. They were laughing and saying how they were going to do me a favor and “cure” me of being a Lez. I guess I was in shock. I couldn’t move. I just couldn’t believe what was happening. I thought I could forget if I just didn’t talk about it but you don’t forget. How can you forget someone laughing at your pain like that?”

“My cousin was molested by his Baseball Coach when he was 9 years old. My aunt found out but was so scared of what my uncle would do if he found out, she made him promise not to tell anybody. He was so ashamed, he kept his promise years after both his parents passed. He was in his 60’s when he finally told me about it, and we were close. We lost him to Covid in 2020 and I’m sharing this because people need to know victims blame themselves and hang onto that shame when it was never their fault.”

“I was wearing a green t-shirt and white jeans. I was at a party with my friends, one of my “friends” at the time, raped me. It was my freshman year of college.”

“Shorts and a t-shirt. Was drunk/high and incoherent. Was falling asleep and asked him to stop. He didn’t. Told my BF a month later and was excessively shamed for “putting myself in the situation.” Didn’t realize it was sexual assault until about a month ago. This happened in 2013.”

“We’d been dating a few months. I wasn’t ready to have sex, and I told him that straight up. He said he’s respect that, but he constantly pushed my boundaries. I was taught that “boys will be boys” and that it’s the girls’ responsibility to keep them in line by dressing modestly and holding high standards, so I didn’t recognize his forcefulness, coercion, and manipulation as abuse. In fact, I spent years believing everything was my fault. It was a Sunday and my dress was modest and pretty, with a floral pattern. I thought that “rapists” were scary older men, strangers who took advantage of vulnerable grils in sketchy bars or dark alleys…I never though my handsome, popular, charming boyfriend would be the one to rape me.”

“I was 13 years old when I was sexually assaulted by someone who was supposed to be my friend. I was wearing a red hoodie and gray leggings. I reported the crime but it was swept under the rug. I want to tell him, ‘You didn’t break me.'”

“I was out to meet someone else. My “friend” recommended he talk to me. He ordered me multiple doubles while I stood at the bar — past the point where I should have been cut off — he told the bartender to add more (extra) to make it a heavy pour. Later, I somehow had to console him. I told him why it was wrong and harmful the next day. This is the dress I once felt so pretty and free in.”

“I was wearing pajama (long) pants and a big jacket. My boyfriend who I’ve dated for 4 years decided to get drunk one night. Every night we take my dog for a walk. But that night when he was drunk, he tied my dog behind a tree and raped me behind a parking lot.”

“I met him through another friend. We IM’d a few times. He was really nice the first time we met up. We went for smoothies and talked for a crazy long time. On our second “date” he raped me. I was wearing jeans and a pink t-shirt. I thought he was a good guy but he was just playing me. I don’t know if anything he said was real. I felt so stupid. Too embarassed to tell anybody. I was afraid to go anywhere in case I saw him, just dropped out of sight. For a long time after that it was like the lights just went out.” 

“I was remodeling a new home I had just purchased. I’d been painting all day in an oversized green t-shirt and brown shorts. The man I’d hired to install counter tops had been making inappropriate comments like “my wife doesn’t give me sex” throughout the day. Those comments made me uncomfortable so when he finished, I paid him and asked him to leave. He wouldn’t leave. He begged me for “just a kiss.” I had no desire to kiss him but he was physically blocking the doorway and he kept asking and saying he would leave after “one kiss.” He was a lot bigger and stronger than me so I thought I had no choice. I let him kiss me and he immediately threw me to the floor and raped me. He left and I stayed there on the floor and cried. I never reported it because I felt shame for “letting” him kiss me.” 

“I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. He never even asked, he just thought I was his for the taking.”

“I worked at a sandwich shop and one night I was doing the inventory counts with just myself and the district manager present. As I was finishing the counts in the walk-in refrigerator, the district manager pulled my arm and attempted several times to kiss me and grabbed me elsewhere. He refused to let my arm go and gripped tighter as I struggled to get the walk-in door to open. What followed was a back and forth struggle until I was finally able to get away. I was wearing leggings and black T-shirt. I haven’t eaten at that sandwich shop since then.”

“I was probably wearing a t-shirt and jeans. It’s been so long I can’t remember what I was wearing, but I’ll never forget what my 4th grade teacher did to me.”

2021 Exhibit

“When I was eight, my Mother told me I was the reason she divorced my Father and we never saw him again. I didn’t understand and she wouldn’t say any more about it. Nobody ever talked about my Dad. People didn’t talk about a lot of things then. It was when I was married and had my own little girl that I remembered. He would come in and touch me, hurt me and then he cried with me. He did. He cried. The pillow was still damp in the morning. I would have been wearing a long night dress.”

“I’d been sleeping in my Dad’s holey, old grey sweat pants and t-shirt since he passed away. I felt so safe, so close to him. After a year, lots of his friends came to visit for a Celebration of Life party. His best friend kept hugging on me and telling me how beautiful I was. That night he got into my bed and raped me.” 

“My missionary companion and I were accosted outside our apartment in the early evening by a group of thugs. He escaped. I was abducted, brutalized, raped and left in a roadside ditch outside the town where we were living. I was wearing a suit, white shirt, tie and my shoes and socks.” 

“When I was sexually assaulted I was wearing a red (men’s cut) Dr. Pepper t-shirt, Dark denim capris (went mid calf), brown leather sandals and a beaded necklace. I went on a date with a co-worker and when we got to our destination he started grabbing at me. He then exposed himself to me. I kept telling him “No! I don’t want to … I am scared.” But he grabbed onto my neck and forced my head towards his genitals. I felt like I couldn’t get away.” 

“What I was wearing: It was night time on a hot summer night. But I still get cold easily and wanted to be comfortable so I wore the softest outfit I could find and I was not worried about my appearance at all. I wore grey sweatpants, not cute ones either, just baggy sweatpants. I also wore a simple black zip up jacket with a sports bra underneath.”  

“I was raped when I was 16, a sophomore in high school. I was wearing dark blue skinny jeans, a dark maroon t-shirt, white sneakers and a grey sweatshirt.”

“We met online, skyped a few times even before we met in person. I was so careful about meeting up in a public place. He was really nice; until he wasn’t. He wouldn’t listen and he wouldn’t stop. The nurse at the ER wanted what I was wearing. Jeans, red Dixie t-shirt, blue hoodie, my underwear and bra…I didn’t want to see any of it again. I thought I could just not think about it and forget but it doesn’t work like that.” 

“My dad raped me at 9:00 in the morning. I was wearing my pink pajama shorts and t-shirt. A rapist isn’t just a stranger — it could be anyone, your dad, your uncle, your husband…”

“I was wearing dark blue designer jeans, a white t-shirt, my Mom’s BYU sweatshirt and white Keds. He was my older brother’s friend.” 

“I was wearing a solid black, flowy shirt that had slits up the side that stopped at ribs. Light wash denim shorts that were high-wasted. With a navy-blue bikini underneath. I was at a pool kick back and a guy I was acquainted with from school was there. I had been drinking, enough to be intoxicated. I began to cry and lost my denim shorts I took off for hot-tubbing. He took me into a room to help me look for them, but I started feeling sick and laid down on a bed. He started trying to take advantage, I kept saying no but wouldn’t stop; he raped me.”  

“When I was raped, I was a sophomore in high school. I was wearing light blue denim capri pants, a black t-shirt with a logo on it, white converse tennis shoes with grey socks, no jewelry, and a navy striped sports bra which I later destroyed.” 

“The night I was raped I was dressed for comfort. It was March so it was brisk, but not cold enough for me to feel like I needed to wear long pants. I was already really sad and depressed so I wore my royal blue collared sweat shirt that had my school Shakespeare team’s logo on it because it was soft and made feel like I was safe and secure. My shorts were a pair of gray basketball shorts that were at least a size bigger than they originally should have been which made them knee-length. I got rid of the pants and underwear, but I still have the sweatshirt. I don’t really wear it anymore though, because it stopped feeling soft and safe.” 

“I was wearing a long, groovy orange print Dashiki. It was 1972 and I was a college freshman, living in the dorms. I hired my roommate’s boyfriend to be my Attendant. After bringing me dinner one night, he raped me. Before he left, he threatened me if I told anyone. I was so terrified I didn’t tell my roommate or even stop payment on the check I had paid him for that week’s work. I moved out the next day. I missed a lot of classes, came really close to quitting school altogether.”   

“I joined the army because I wanted to follow in my grandpa’s footsteps. Four weeks into Basic Training though, I was jumped and raped by four other men. I had trusted these fellow soldiers and they betrayed that trust. I spent 14 days in the hospital following the assault. Although I was honorably discharged, I am damaged for the rest of my life. Since then, I was rated 70% permanently and totally disabled by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. This is what I was wearing but the shame from that night I’ll wear forever.”    

“I got rid of the jeans and black shirt. I kept the belt. It was my Dad’s. I never would have believed anything like this could happen to me. The cops were really cool., My girlfriend has been the best. She had something like this in high school, so she knows. She knows what it feels like afterwards.”    

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault or rape, DOVE Center is here to provide support. Please reach out to us or visit our other web pages to learn more about assault recovery and how to get help so you don’t have to go it alone. You are not alone. We hear you. We see you. We believe you. DOVE advocates are always available on our 24-hour Helpline: (435) 628-0458.