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Fall 2018 Edition
Alumni & Friends Magazine

What were you wearing?

This question, often asked of survivors of sexual violence in order to discredit them, was answered by a powerful exhibit in Baker University Center’s Trisolini Gallery this fall.

October 1, 2018


This question, often asked of survivors of sexual violence in order to discredit them, was answered by a powerful exhibit in Baker University Center’s Trisolini Gallery this fall.

The exhibit, sponsored by Ohio University’s Women’s Center, the Survivor Advocacy Program, the Campus Involvement Center, the College of Fine Arts, Ambassadors to the Survivor Advocacy Program, and the Intersectional Feminist Alliance, collected more than 40 stories from Athens-area survivors and displayed clothing representing what each was wearing at the time of the incident.

The exhibit will also travel to many of the regional campuses in the coming months after opening on the Athens campus amid an upswell of student-led efforts and University-supported resources to end sexual violence.

Presented below with their original survivor-provided descriptions, the submissions lay out the answers to the question—pajamas, running shorts, a pink polo, a once favorite pair of pants—and cast off the blame often placed on the victim.

The first “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit was held in 2014 at the University of Arkansas, and many have been held since at campuses throughout the United States. Inspired by Mary Simmerling’s poem, also below, the first exhibits were created by Jen Brockman and Mary Wyandt-Hiebert.

Feature photo by Ellee Achten, BSJ '14, MA'17. Exhibit photos by Pete Shooner

Blue t-shirt and jean cut-off shorts

I was wearing flower patterned jean shorts and a matching blue t-shirt. It was a hot summer day in Athens, and he offered to walk me home after a night out. He stopped along the way in alleys to shove me against walls and forcibly kiss me and to forcibly remove my shirt before we got to my apartment before letting himself into my apartment without my permission. My apartment was my safe space where I lived alone, until the night where he took that safe feeling from me. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Butterfly patterned top and jeans

I was wearing high waisted blue jeans and this pretty butterfly top. We were associates and he was going through some things in his life, so we linked to catch up and talk. I had no idea that he would be the man who raped me that same night. Outfit provided by a survivor.

Peach colored dress

I was wearing a peach dress. It was above the knee with thick straps. I haven't worn a dress since that night. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Yellow long sleeve tshirt and athletic shorts

I was wearing running shorts and a long sleeve t shirt. I just finished doing homework late one night and was offered to hang out and watch TV. I trusted him enough to sleep at his dorm and he took advantage of me. Can't watch HGTV the same now. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Grey tshirt and black yoga pants

An oversized t-shirt and yoga pants. I wasn't feeling well and he came over to "just hang out." When he wanted to get physical, I said no because I'm very tight and sexual contact is painful. He said, "That's hot," and shoved his fingers inside of me. When I protested and asked him to stop, he told me to "just relax." Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Set of red flannel pajamas

I was wearing flannel pajamas. He was my abusive husband and he raped me repeatedly, always at night, when he came in drunk. Outfit provided by a survivor.

Pink tshirt, jeans and flipflops

I was wearing average American Eagle jeans. Not too tight and not too loose. Average. I wore a light pink form fitting scoop neck T-shirt, but nothing suggestive. Probably a wal-mart shirt. I mean, I wasn't "asking for it." I was laughing with my friends. I was smiling. I was dancing and minding my own business. Nothing I did invited attention, yet it somehow did. Maybe it was my Nike Flip flops that drew attention? Or the black sports bra that covered my breasts entirely but showed slightly through my shirt. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Navy blue tank top and black athletic shorts

I was wearing a blue tank top and high waisted black shorts. Now I never want to purchase the same look ever again. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

White jacket and top, jeans and brown shoes

October 18 - He was upset and threatening himself, so I went over to check on him. We were friends, that's what friends do. I was wearing my favorite grey cords, a white shirt, and a jean jacket. Nothing special, just an outfit I frequently wore. November - the worst night of my young adult life. This was the night of the most obvious assault. I wore black skinny jeans that have a small amount of white paint splashed on them, black leather slip on toms, a white tank top, the cream sweater, and the same jean jacket on. Outfit provided by a survivor.

Oversized blue tshirt

I was wearing his shirt; it was way to big for me and came down to above my knees. He let me change into it and sleep at his apartment because I was too drunk to walk home. I guess for him that meant drunk enough for sex. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Ohio University striped tank top and jeans

I was wearing an Ohio University tanktop, a navy blue bralette, and blue jeans. He was able to pull the tanktop and bralette off too easily on his own and I couldn't stop it. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Yellow tshirt and blue athletic shorts

I had been leaving soccer practice in June, so I was in my sweaty shirt and soccer shorts. I felt gross as it was, and he just made me feel more gross. Since then I haven't felt clean. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Pink longsleeve top and ripped jeans

I was wearing a long sleeved pink leotard and ripped skinny jeans. I was drunk at a party and he told my roommate I "needed to stay there." He took me to his room and sexually assaulted me. I was too drunk to realize what had happened until a few weeks later. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Pink and white tie-dye tank top and white shorts

Brand-new, white hot pants and a pink halter top, indelible in my memory. I was 16, and my 19-year-old boyfriend kept insisting we had "a future to begin" then in 1975. I blotted blood out of his mother's sofa with my panties and tossed them into a foul dumpster on the way to a John Denver concert. He broke up with me three months later. I did not tell a solitary soul for 40 years. I blurted it out to my daughter in the waiting room of a gynecologist's office. I mention it in class now when the topic of shaming comes up. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Floral crop top, blue cardigan sweater and jeans

I was wearing ripped jeans and a crop top the clothes I usually go out in. But I put a cardigan on because it was getting cold and I was going to help a friend. I didn't feel the need to look nice for him, I honestly felt like I should cover up more so my body didn't make him uncomfortable. He still thinks that my low cut shirt made it okay for him to assault me. Outfit provided by a survivor.

Black shirt, black skirt, black sneakers

It was going to be the first time I met his father. I was wearing a pleated black skirt that rested just above my knees and a gray Ohio University shirt with the numbers 1804 on it, tucked in. I had on my favorite pair of vans. We were upstairs in his sister's old bedroom when he violated me. His father was making dinner for us downstairs. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Dark red tshirt and athletic shorts

I was wearing soffe shorts and a t-shirt. He was my first boyfriend and we had dated for about a year. I had been really ill and he came over to visit me after I was discharged home. He assaulted me when I was too tired to fight back. I was only 15. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Holiday tshirt featuring a cat, and jeans

Holiday shirt featuring a cat, and jeans. We were on a holiday/cat themed shuffle after the semester had ended. I had clearly had too much to drink, and none of us could drive home. A group of us took a cab to a friend's place to stay there, and planned to just get our cars the next morning. He ended up getting into bed with me, and wouldn't listen to 'no.' No one else staying there seemed to know, or maybe they thought what we did was consensual, so there was no one to stand up for me when he offered to drive me back to my car the next morning. I never saw him again, and still cringe whenever someone mentions his name. Outfit provided by a survivor.

Flower printed pants

Flower printed pants. They used to be my favorite thing to wear. They used to make me feel so special. I thought that he loved the beauty of flowers, turns out he loves to crush them instead. Outfit provided by a survivor.

Yellow hoodie, jeans, black sneakers

A pretty yellow hoodie, bootcut jeans, my grey New Balance tennis shoes. His parents just left for a minute to get pizza. I was 14. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Sports tshirt and jeans

I was wearing a white Southern Tornadoes shirt and jean capris and white tennis shoes. It was a boy I liked and we spoke a lot at school. He asked if I wanted to come in and watch a movie which he proceeded to walk me to his room where there was no tv. He pushed me down on the bed and started to kiss me. I immediately felt uncomfortable and when he moved his hands from my arms to my button on my jeans I wiggled out from under him and ran. I ran until I couldn't anymore. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Flannel shirt, jeans and sneakers

A high school party at an acquaintance's house was breaking up and we were all climbing into cars to be dropped off at our various homes. Unexpectedly, one of the more popular football players offered to drop me off. Flattered, I said yes. When we pulled up on the roadside by my darkened home, I started to open the door to leave when he grabbed me, held me down, moved on top of me and put his hands under my oversize flannel shirt grabbing my breasts. I struggled, squirming and kicking and after long moments he released me and pushed me out the door in disgust, shouting as he drove away. I was wearing blue jeans, sneakers, and an oversized flannel shirt. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Flannel shirt, tshirt and jeans

A red flannel shirt, a grey tshirt, and jeans. She was my friend and I trusted her. She kept handing me drinks and then I woke up with her on top of me. The next day she told me "Well you never said no." To this day I still often blame myself. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Grey tshirt and a straight jacket

A Grandmother's Story: In 1949, my husband drives me to Madison State Hospital, in Madison Indiana, and tells the state hospital there "My wife is schizophrenic, and I want her put into the hospital!" My husband goes back to Cincinnati, and I am admitted only weeks after Lobotomies are banned in the state of Indiana. I'm not crazy, it's my husband, he hates me! I spend the next fifty years of my life, tied up in a strait jacket, with wire probes sending shock waves through my body, and brain, and my husband spends them sexually assaulting and raping, his own, and many other children. Outfit provided by a survivor. A Granddaughter's Story: In 1969, my grandfather is given custody of me. My first memory of being my Paw Paw's young wife is in 1972 at the young age of 3. Laying on the front porch swing with my grandfather in only his white T-shirt, I learn to disassociate from myself so that I do not have to feel pain. In 1984, my grandfather runs an add to babysit is charged with multiple counts of rape, and sexual assault on various children that he babysat. In 1985, my grandfather is convicted, and sentenced to life in prison.... In 1986, because of a legal technicality he is acquitted, and set free. In 2006, I found my Grandmother in Madison State Hospital where she had been lying in the same bed for fifty years. With nothing to live for, her eyes were shut, and would not open, she did not speak, and from the multiple shock treatments she was paralyzed. I began visiting her weekly, and daily until her eyes began to open and she began to talk to me. I became her health care representative, and moved her out of Madison State hospital where she had spent her entire life. She went to heaven on November the 9th 2013 and she knew that her Granddaughter loved her more than anything in the world! Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Softball tshirt and athletic shorts

It was summer and I was wearing shorts and my little league softball shirt. I was 11 years old and he was my dad's friend. He was suppose to drive me to my softball game. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Yellow cardigan sweater, jeans and brown boots

I was with friends all evening and had already turned him away a few times telling him I didn't want to kiss or do anything with him. I fell asleep in my winter clothes: a thick loose fitted green sweater with a gray cami underneath, a pair of blue jeans, and tan boots. I woke up to him forcefully pulling me on top of him. He was in the military and I never reported him for fear of what he may do to me. A few years later he was arrested and sent to jail for raping a woman on OU campus. He is being released in October. I am afraid. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Black tshirt and pink pajama pants

Martial arts uniform tshirt and striped pj bottoms. I was tired and sore after a taekwondo practice and had taken drowsy medication. I trusted him and he took advantage of that. Outfit provided by a survivor.

Pink polo shirt and capri pants

A pink polo shirt and a pair of capris, something I wore all the time. I was supposed to just be spending the night at a friend's house, but his brother had a party. I drank to be cool, to be "mature," but his brother had other plans. I was only 10. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Black sweatshirt, purple scarf, jeans and black sneakers

I was heading to his dorm room to hangout for the first time. It was an unseasonably warm October day. I was wearing a black crew neck t-shirt, a purple infinity scarf and ripped American Eagle jeans and grey converse shoes. Comfy and casual, it was what I wore to class that morning. After the assault, I had to go to a Learning Community event. I ended up covering myself up the rest of the night in an Ohio University zip up fleece and a winter scarf. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Yellow tank top and jeans

The first time, I was wearing a yellow spaghetti strap top, beige bra, high waist jeans. He groped me. I said no. He said if he could see it he should be able to touch it. I told a friend (the first person I told) and she said he was right. I was in middle school. So was he. He was abusive for too long. He wrote me an email apology while I was an undergraduate. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Black tshirt and black sweatpants

I was wearing black sweatpants from my high school cross country team. Only sweatpants I had at the time. I was wearing a band t-shirt. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Pink tank top

A pink night dress. It was like Cinderella's, before the fairy changed it, in the disney movie. I still had it on when I said to him that I needed help to work the shower knobs in my new house. I was 8 and needed help and he raped me. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Oversized tshirt and shorts

I was wearing an oversized t-shirt and shorts. It was the same thing I slept in every night. He stopped over to say hi after returning to school from the summer. He was my good friend who I really trusted and he raped me. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Tshirt featuring a skull and grey athletic shorts

A grey Grateful Dead tank top and dark grey loose Nike shorts. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Purple sweatshirt, jeans and an Ohio University baseball hat

I was wearing a sweatshirt with leggings and a baseball hat. He told me he wanted to turn his life around and apologize to me for treating me poorly in the past. We had a history together and I trusted him and got raped. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Ohio University black tshirt and athletic shorts

I was wearing orange running shorts and a black t-shirt that said "OHIO" in big green letters. I spent the summer day hiking with my best friend. After the hike I stopped by my ex-boyfriend's house. When I tried to go home he wouldn't let me leave and sexually assaulted me. That is a pain I have carried ever since.

Striped tshirt and jeans

I was wearing a comfortable outfit to go out in, a striped v-neck t-shirt and ripped jeans with a floral belt. My friends and I all knew him well, so I walked him back to our dorm that night after he had too much to drink. I trusted and helped him as a friend, but he assaulted me. Outfit provided by a survivor.

Oversized red sweatshirt and black leggings

I was wearing leggings and a sweatshirt, what I wore on nights we would have a casual night out. I was sitting on a bench waiting for friends when 3 men came up to me and started undressing me. A sweatshirt and leggings... did this compel all 3 of them to assault me? Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Ohio University grey tshirt and black leggings

We had just broken up and decided to hang out and see if we could fix our relationship. I didn't want to seem like I was trying too hard so I wore my favorite OU shirt and skinny jeans because I was excited about only being a junior but knowing where I was going to college after graduating high school. It was my favorite shirt but during college, when I saw people wearing that same shirt, I felt sick and had to turn away. Outfit inspired by a survivor.

Jean shorts

Short denim shorts. I wore clothes like this all the time in the summer. It helped me to feel good about myself and how I looked. But then I was groped and raped. So, now wearing clothes like that remind me of the assault. I don't like the way I look anymore and I don't try to look nice. Outfit provided by a survivor.


By Mary Simmerling

was this:
from the top
a white t-shirt
and round at the neck

this was tucked into
a jean skirt
(also cotton)
ending just above the knees
and belted at the top

underneath all this
was a white cotton bra
and white underpants
(though probably not a set)

on my feet
white tennis shoes
the kind one plays tennis in
and then finally
silver earrings, and lip gloss.

this is what i was wearing
that day
that night
that fourth of july
in 1987.

you may be wondering
why this matters
or even how i remember
every item
in such detail

you see
i have been asked this question
many times
it has been called to my mind
many times

this question
this answer
these details.

but my answer
much awaited
much anticipated
seems flat somehow
given the rest of the details
of that night
during which
at some point
i was raped.

and i wonder
what answer
what details
would give comfort
could give comfort
to you
my questioners

seeking comfort where
there is
no comfort
to be found.

if only it were so simple
if only we could
end rape
by simply changing clothes

i remember also
what he was wearing
that night
even though
it's true
that no one
has ever asked.