The Museum of Texas Tech University opened a new exhibit called “What were you wearing, Lubbock?,” featuring clothing from sexual assault victims in the Lubbock area. The purpose of the exhibit is to break down the myth that what a victim was wearing at the time of their assault caused the attack.
Ashley Rose Marino, an environmental design graduate student from Mansfield and the organizer of the exhibition, said the “What were you wearing?” exhibit has never been in the West Texas area.
“The first iteration of it was in the early 2010s, and the first like really popular one was done by KU,” she said. “What inspired the first person to really do this expedition was a poem by Mary Simmerling.”
The poem describes the author’s feelings when she was asked what she was wearing during her sexual assault, Marino said, and it ends with a statement questioning why no one wondered what the rapist was wearing.
Marino said she organized an anonymous form for West Texas residents to fill out so they could share their stories and experiences with sexual assault.
“We ended up compiling 51 different outfits for the museum exhibition, and each one of them relates back to a story from a sexual assault survivor who is in Lubbock right now,” she said.
Kyna Bullard, a sophomore history and global studies major from Junction, said the exhibit shook her and had a deep impact on her view of sexual assault.
“This is definitely a hard-hitting exhibit, just seeing like all the little kids’ clothes,” she said.
The most shocking aspect of the exhibit, Bullard said, was that many of the victims knew their assailants.
“A lot of them are from people who interact with people who they had known prior,” she said. “There’s none that are like the (stories) that you generally see like sexual assault stories in the news.”
Some of the most difficult stories to digest were the ones about children experiencing sexual assault, she said.
“This one’s probably the heaviest and the hardest because it’s just a 3 year old’s clothes,” Bullard said.
Steve Angerman, a visitor from Wichita Falls, said he did not understand the purpose of the exhibit until he walked in and started reading the stories. He described them as “shocking” and “terrible” stories to read, particularly the first one in the exhibit.
“With a little girl’s dress, that’s probably the worst one,” he said. “I have a 7-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old daughter, and to see where somebody had growing up in that entire time in that situation is terrible.”
The exhibit opened his eyes to how prevalent sexual assault is in today’s society, he said.
“It can happen to anybody, regardless of age or where you’re at, your situation or obviously what you’re wearing,” he said. “I’m glad (the exhibit) is here, I just wish more people would see it.”
Khu Do, a college student from Vietnam visiting Tech for a conference on the Vietnam War, said she was looking for things to do around Lubbock and heard the museum was a must-see. The “What Were You Wearing, Lubbock?” exhibit was the last one she was viewing, she said.
“It’s pretty shocking to me, because I’m from Southeast Asia, and I go to school in South Korea,” she said. “(It’s) a pretty patriarchal society, so it’s something that we (don’t) talk about in Asia, rape or sexual assault.”
As Do walked through the exhibit, she said she reflected on the difference between Asian and Western values in regards to dealing with sexual assault.
“In Asia, what would really be the reason to blame or such would be, I don’t know, being vulnerable, being at a young age, female, like young girls and such. It is not necessarily about clothes,” she said. “It struck me that it’s true, it’s not about clothes at all.”
Do was also surprised to see men’s clothing on the wall as well, she said, indicating men can also fall victim to sexual assault. Furthermore, the assailants can be male or female.
“The criminal is not necessarily a male, but also a female, as I’ve seen in one of the (exhibits),” she said.
The piece that struck Do the most, she said, was the one with three separate outfits from one person, indicating the victim was attacked multiple times.
“I think the one that has multiple clothes, which means it happens over time, so I can imagine how repeatedly such kind of incident happen to one single person,” Do said.