I came across the following article about an exhibition of clothing that survivor’s of sexual assault wore the day of the crime. It seared itself into my psyche, and whilst I found it confronting, the biggest emotion I felt was rage; unadulterated rage. Anger that the public may require visual representations to even attempt to understand what the victim had endured.
Let me tell you a story… Once upon a time, there was a fourteen year old girl, living in Sydney during a typical Aussie summer. A grown man hovered, and she remarked to anyone who would listen that she found his attentions “creepy.” Upon discovering her alone one evening, he mentioned that if he were her, he would make sure that he wore jeans and a long top wherever she went, especially if he was around. It was said as though it were a warning, and chilled her to the bone. It stuck in her brain, and she found herself wearing both jeans and long top as she prepared for a picnic, despite it being a heatwave. He wasn’t supposed to be coming, but at the last moment, hopped on the bus. Once they had reached their destination, the girl looked about, envious at other young women dressed in shorts and singlet tops, and angry she felt that she had to cover up in the extreme heat. The end result of the picnic was that she was raped. Her exhibit would be jeans and a long top, covered with dirt and sweat… My exhibit. Not only did the adults present not save me, neither did my choice of outfit. Sexual violence is about power and control, not about what one is wearing. It never was.
I have known many girls, whom at puberty, have felt uncomfortable with leering strangers and commentary from familiar people about their changing bodies, and have thus worn shapeless jumpers and cargo pants, even in the height of summer. It breaks my heart. It reminds me of that time… When I see young people in shorts and singlets in hot weather, I rejoice. They are free, their skin able to cool itself, unencumbered.
I have watched with dismay as the truth about Harvey Weinstein comes under not only a spotlight, but a search-light. The truth, at last! It can’t be hidden forever, no more than your dress can be blamed for a crime committed against you. I leave with the following from the sage Emma Thompson.