What were you wearing?
This project is meant to highlight how ridiculous it is to victim-shame by asking a sexual assault victim questions about things like what they were wearing during the attack. Sexual assault survivors were encouraged to bring or recreate the outfit they were wearing during their attack. They each shared their story.
15 years old.
"I was spending the night at a friend's house. I was abducted by her brother's friend. He hit me in the head, threw me in the back of his truck and drove off into the middle of the woods. Once there, he stripped me down, beat me, raped me and tried to kill me."
"This is the actual sweater I was wearing. The victims advocate who was working with me wanted to give my clothes back to me, because she thought they would be an important memory of my time in high school. She went and cleaned the shirts up. The white stains are from her using bleach to try to get the blood stains out before she gave it back to me. The other clothes I had on were ripped, torn and shredded."
"When questioned by the police, they asked me what I did to make him so mad. They asked me several questions about that night including what I was wearing. Really, I was wearing nothing at the end of the day, except major head trauma.
As a society we have to do better."
7 YEARS OLD.
"On May 19, 2016, my daughter's elementary school principal called to say that another student reported seeing a high school boy showing my daughter dirty photos on his computer." -The Victim's Mother
"When my daughter got home, I talked to her about it. She admitted he had been touching her under her clothes. I drove her to the police station. He had been touching her for two years (kindergarten and first grade).
"We are still in the court process. She will have to testify in front of him at some point. She was seven when we found out. It would happen every morning on the way to school. He lived a few doors down from us, and I saw him every morning as we stood and waited for the bus. They sat in the seat directly behind the driver, because that is his biggest blind spot."
22 YEARS OLD.
"On December 31, 1989, I was abducted from my apartment and raped repeatedly over a period of six hours. It was foolish on my part. I was expecting my boyfriend any minute. It was about midnight. He had been out with friends, and I was waiting for him. My apartment didn’t have a peep hole. I heard someone outside, and I just opened the door and the rapist was there waiting."
"He is in prison now. He was convicted. He is serving life without parole. He was convicted of aggravated rape."
"It was hard to deal with, but raising a family has been a good distraction. I have had therapy off and on over the years. I have PTSD from it, but I am much better than I used to be."
16 YEARS OLD.
"A friend and I were drinking at my house. We were just having fun. My friend started texting a guy and he wanted to come over. He was with another friend of his that we also go to school with. They were very high. We were just kind of playing around and talking. We played spin the bottle, just dumb high school things that you do."
"This boy that my friend had texted started to want to make out with her. He tried to feel up on her. She was not having any of it, so I guess he kind of got mad at that. My friend went and walked somewhere with his other friend that he had brought. I ended lying on the ground in my carport. This boy that she had texted got on top of me and started to kiss me."
"He started to unbutton my pants. I was pretty drunk at the time, but I was definitely telling him no and telling him to stop. He just kept trying to convince me that I wanted it. Then, it was actually amazing timing, my friend kind of walked up and seeing the boy that she had texted on top of me I guess made her sort of jealous. She was like 'Whats going on?' Then he got off of me. I am so glad she walked up."
FROM AGES 5 - 8.
"I was really young, but the most prominent memory is one time that happened when I was at my grandfather's house for Christmas. I was told I had to stay the night. I woke up and there he was."
"It was my dad’s dad. He did it from as early as kindergarten until I finally told my mom when I was eight. My family knows now, but no one ever really talks about it. No one ever really did. He never was convicted. They went to court once and nothing ever happened. I don’t even know if he is registered. I don’t know why. My mom said that they found the allegations to be true, but nothing ever happened."
"I am 18 now. I was put in the hospital in November because of my mental state. They diagnosed me with bi-polar disorder and PTSD. I never really dealt with it. I still have a hard time getting into relationships. I don’t really let people touch me in a romantic way. I only trust two boys and it took me a really long time just to trust them."
14 YEARS OLD.
"On the night of my 14th birthday, I was hanging out with my best friend. She had the idea to go hang out with some boys that she knew. I thought why not. I had known the boys too. I went to school with them. She had mentioned to me before that she was interested in one of the boys. We went to one of the boy's houses. Everyone decided we would pair off. My friend was alongside me but she was messing around with the boy she liked. She was going to go as far as he wanted."
"This is were I get sort of furious with myself for not really expressing what I wanted to do. This boy had been experienced before and I grew up in a family where I had this ideal that I would lose my virginity to the person I married. It was always on my mind and I knew that I didn’t love this boy. I allowed us to sit there and talk. Eventually, he would start leaning toward me and I would sort of gesture away because he wasn’t being forceful. Every time that I had sort of made my gentle and innocent remarks towards him he would say 'Oh, well I like just talking to you.' It was just every time I was backing away he would move closer to me. This time a little bit closer and the next even closer."
At some point, I felt like I wasn’t allowed to say no anymore. Everyone else was just telling me to do it. After a while I thought, this is what everyone wants, but I don’t want this so what do I say? Just. . . I think for myself I wish that I really would have used my words to tell him no in a stern manner. It was almost like they could all make a joke of it. I kind of felt like a rag doll, like my only option was to listen to what everyone else was telling me to do. I didn’t make a decision for me and I hated that. I hated it. It took me years, even still now, I still find myself unable to build that courage to stand up against someone. I feel like I am the bad guy if I tell someone no."
18 YEARS OLD.
"I was a Marine from 1978-81. My first year in I accepted a ride from an E-7, that is pretty high up, I figured it was safe. He said 'Well, I need to stop by my barracks first and pick something up. Why don’t you come in and have a beer?' So I sit down. I am having a beer, and he asks me what it would cost to have sex with him. I said 'I am not prostitute. I am a Marine.' And at that point he held me hostage and wouldn’t let me go. I eventually got away."
"All the evidence went down the drain. In court, some of the women in the barracks testified against me. They said 'Well, she didn’t scream. She didn’t fight it. She must of met him out in town.' Everyone convinced me to say I had met him out in town, so no one would get in trouble for drinking.
When I got back to the states, I was there for about a year and they called me in. They told me he was being transferred to my base. They said they would station him eight miles away. He torched my car.
The leading cause of PTSD in women veterans is sexual trauma. One in four active duty women will be raped. Men make up 57% of the rapes in the military, and women are the other 43% but women only make up 15% of the military, so we are in much higher numbers. It is rampant. In 2012, they were reporting 26,000 rapes and 84% go unreported. So that tells you we are talking hundreds of thousands every year, and nothing is being done."
"I wasn’t so lucky on his second attempt. I was asleep in my barracks and I woke up to it. I couldn’t fight it, because we had gotten drunk in the barracks. You can’t have alcohol in the barracks, so I was already doing something I wasn’t supposed to, but I didn’t deserve to be raped. I made him get off of me and I pushed him out the door. I was heading up toward the front to tell the person on duty, and before I could get there he was already back in through a window and was on top of someone else who hadn’t passed out drunk. She could defend herself. They chased him down and held him for the police. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have gone to court-martial for it. He only lost his pay for 30 days, because when I was taken to the hospital they couldn’t do the rape kit right away. They only had one doctor, and he was trying to save the life of a two year old. I kept thinking that losing a two year old was so much worse than what I was going through."
18 YEARS OLD.
"I went to a party with my friend when I was in college. I walked in with my friends, and there were seven guys there. I thought it was a bit sketchy. Eventually everyone started drinking. I don’t drink, but my friend was trying to convince me to. I finally gave in to fit in."
"We drank way too much. I started to not feel good, so I went to lay down. I fell asleep. Then I heard someone throwing up in the bathroom next to the bedroom I was in. I went to check on them and it was my friend. I made her drink some water and made sure she was okay."
"When I got back into bed, a boy laid down next to me. I fell back asleep. I woke up later, and I had no clothes on and he was touching me. I couldn’t move. I asked him what he was doing, and he said 'What you wanted me to do.' I asked him why he thought that and he said 'Well, you were the only one at the party who was nice to me.' I asked him to stop and he asked why. Then he climbed on top of me and said he would do what he wanted to."
21 YEARS OLD - OUTFIT #2.
"This one happened when I worked for a university hospital. It was only a few months ago. I had worked there for three years, and there was this guy who always made me uncomfortable. He would always try to hold my hand and hug me. I always told him not to. I had previously asked before not to be on tasks with him, because he had made me uncomfortable in the past. Plus, he had already gotten in trouble twice for sexual harassment. The managers said they would fire him if there was another incident."
"One day, I went to the break room and he followed me in. I was leaning against the wall. He hugged me out of nowhere and kissed my neck. I told him to stop very clearly. He put his hands down my pants. I told him to stop again. Finally, I pushed him back and ran out of the room. I called the manager and explained the situation. I wrote a statement in the manager’s office."
"He wasn’t fired after a week, so I asked the manager about it. She told me there was no evidence, so they couldn’t do anything. Supposedly, they reported it to higher ups, but nothing happened after that. He would still harass me and catcall me in front of other people. I finally quit, because I wanted to work in a place where I felt safe. They wouldn’t even put us on different shifts or let me switch hospital sections. He still works there."
21 YEARS OLD AND 17 YEARS OLD.
Victim One From Above Story (Left) : “We have both been through so much. She has been my support system."
Victim Two (Right): "It was during the summer about a year and a half ago. It was hot, I was wearing shorts. No makeup. I had woken up late. It was around Independence Day so my parents were preparing for a grill out party. My dad was a supervisor so he often had his employees over to the house. There was one guy in particular who was one of his best workers, so he was always over."
"My family had went to the store, and he arrived at our house early. It was probably 11 a.m. I went to talk to my brother, but he wasn’t there and I realized this guy was here. Like I said, he was my dad’s friend and worker, so I didn’t think anything of it. I talked to him for a bit, then I started to feel sick. I was in the process of changing my medicine for diabetes so my stomach hurt."
"I went to lie down in my room. I was half asleep, and he came in and started talking to me. It wasn’t uncommon for him to come talk to me, so I didn’t think anything of it. I don’t know how it happened, but he was just on top of me. I started screaming, but I live in the middle of nowhere, and no one was home. My dad never knew. If he did, he would probably kill him."
FROM AGES 6 - 11.
"My stepfather starting molesting me when I was six. It didn't stop until he separated from my mom when I was 10 or 11. That dress is something I would have worn as a kid."
"My mom worked graveyard, and my stepdad watched me and my brother while she was at work. When he first started, it was a lot of touching me inappropriately. I was eight or nine the first time he made me give him oral sex, and I threw up. He told my mom that I had the stomach bug, but in reality he had made me gag."
"He eventually started raping me. He used to beat the shit of my mom all the time. I remember the older I got, the more he would threaten to kill her if I told anyone what he was doing to me. I used to self-harm really bad. I cut 'failure' into my leg. I didn’t know how to cope with it."
3 YEARS OLD.
"She came into the hospital with these clothes on. She was repeatedly raped by her mother’s boyfriend. Her pelvis and hips were completely fractured. She was completely spread out. She couldn’t close her legs, because of the fractures. She had also suffered some head trauma and was pretty incoherent. She did test positive for several STDs." - One of Her Hospital Caregivers
"She didn’t make it. She was completely forgotten. I know the system can’t be there in everyone’s home but this. . . I mean she was repeatedly sexually assaulted before she turned three. There were old fractures too."
"This was all that she left the world with."