Office of Equal Opportunity hosts “What Were You Wearing?” installation

Freshman Maribel Barrera looks at some of the clothing recreations at the “What Were You Wearing?” event at the Margaret Sloss House on April 9. The exhibit was created to combat victim-blaming.

Maribel Barrera

On Tuesday, the Office of Equal Opportunity hosted “What Were You Wearing?”

The exhibit is one of many campus initiatives being held throughout the month of April as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The event was hosted in partnership with a variety of campus organizations, including Green Dot, the Sloss Center and the Iowa State Police Department, among others.

The installation featured various outfits meant to represent clothing worn by survivors of sexual assault at the time of the assault, alongside a quote from the victim. Some of the outfits included a lifeguard uniform, a combat uniform, a tank top and shorts, a prom dress and boxers.

“[I was wearing] shorts and a tank top. I was walking home from a friend’s place on the well-lit bike trail. It was a 2-minute walk, I thought I was safe,” read one sign.

In addition to allowing the stories of survivors to be heard, the installation provided a space for students to consider the issue of sexual assault and their attitudes towards it in a more critical manner.


“[This exhibit is] a way to validate [survivors], to express other people’s stories, to show [what] other people have been through, [and] it’s a way to validate individuals who may have had similar experiences,” said Jacob Cummings, an Equal Opportunity Specialist within the Office of Equal Opportunity, and one of the hosts for the event.

While this event may have been difficult to attend for some survivors of sexual assault, many students turned out to hear these survivors’ stories, including Adrienne Rule, a senior in event management.

“I’m really glad that I’m here and that I’m looking at things and reading people’s stories. […] it makes me [feel like I’m] closer to other people at Iowa State,” Rule said.

The Office of Equal Opportunity hopes to revive this exhibit for a longer period of time in the following years, said Cummings.


“The stories are very compelling. Even just a sentence or two is very compelling in and of itself, and pairing that with some actual clothing, [makes] it more real to people that may not have experienced it or hadn’t thought about it as critically,” Cummings said.