‘Well, what were you wearing?’: These photos show rape is never the victim’s fault

It doesn't matter if you were wearing hot pants or jogging bottoms. We repeat: It doesn't matter. At all.

‘I am trying to challenge society’s assumptions that victims are always in revealing clothing, and I am trying to show the variation in clothing worn – there is no correlation between what victims wear and their attacks, because sexual assault only occurs when a person decides to assault another person,’ explains Katherine Cambareri, a photographer, whose series of images (depicting the clothes worn by women when they were assaulted) has just gone viral. ‘A person’s choice of clothing is never a reason to sexually assault someone, and the stereotype that victims are always wearing revealing clothing at the time of their assault is not true.’

Shot against a black background, Katherine’s images are striking. There are jogging bottoms, skirts, jeans and jumpers. There are shorts, and camisoles, and cardigans. Some of the clothes are creased. Others look like they’ve been washed, repeatedly, at a high temperature until the colours and associations fade away. Either way, the lighting – grim and bleak and grey – is the only thing the items have in common.

Because that’s the point (and we’ll keep shouting it until we’re hoarse). Victims of rape don’t have anything in common. They don’t behave a ‘certain way’, or speak a ‘certain way’ or dress a ‘certain way’. Rape can happen to anybody, at any time, in any place. What they were wearing has nothing to do with it. And that’s the truth – which just makes it all the more baffling that judges and lawyers and police officers continue to insist upon asking that question – placing blame upon the woman in question and making her think ‘if I’d dressed differently, maybe this wouldn’t have happened’.

Making her think it’s her fault that she was attacked.

And that’s why Katherine’s series is so important. ‘I really, really hope to make people uncomfortable looking at these images,’ she said, in an interview with the Metro. ‘I want people to think about victim-blaming and how asking “What were you wearing?,” is not a valid question… victims never “ask” to be assaulted.’

Reading now

Popular