The “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit aims to end victim shaming and bring awareness to sexual violence.
Over 100 outfits worn by survivors of sexual violence, including diapers and hospital scrubs, are on display at the exhibit in Brussels.
For Nahla Valji, the global head of the UN-led Spotlight Initiative behind the exhibit, the display not only proves that “it doesn’t matter what a woman was wearing” but also how prevalent in society this type of violence is.
“If you look at these outfits, we have heard from individuals the stark emotional response that you get, we have a diaper, we have children’s clothes, we have hospital scrubs, everyday outfits that really demonstrate that this is a crime of violence and brutality that needs to be addressed,” she added.
The name of the exhibit, she explained, is a reference to “a question that too many survivors get asked when they go to the police to report their crime or when they report it to their friends and family”.
This exhibition was hosted a year ago in New York City and was brought to Brussels because of the current ties to the European Union – the bloc has donated €500 million to the initiative.
Valji said having this relationship has helped the cause, but the initiative, which has programmes in 25 countries around the world, wants to expand.
“We have a whole-of-society approach, a whole-of-government approach in many of these countries that’s been taken up at the highest level by the head of state. So just demonstrating when you have political will backed by funding a comprehensive approach that really shifts the needle, that we can end gender-based violence,” she said.
The Spotlight Initiative addresses laws, policies, institutional reform, and more at the community level in cooperation with women’s organisations.
Through its current programmes, Spotlight aims to save two women’s and girls’ lives every day and 140,000 children’s lives by 2025, and effectively prevent violence against 21 million women and girls by 2025 – among other objectives.