Display in Alton seeks to dispel myth that what women wear prompts sexual assaults

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ALTON, IL – It`s an exhibit that makes a powerful statement without saying a word.

“'And the comment is, “What were you wearing - my prom dress” says Gail Donnelly Bader, Alton YWCA President Board of Directors.

“Don`t know if that needs much more explanation.”

It`s called “What Were You Wearing,” a student survivor art installation and exhibit on display for one week only.

It takes its name from a poem about a sexual assault entitled “What I was wearing”.

But the exhibits powerful message proves a point that it doesn`t matter what article of clothing it might have been.

“A red sweater, a black skirt, shorts and a top,” says Donnelly Bader.

Monday kicked off the international Week Without Violence coinciding with October`s Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“We want people to stop and think that it can happen no matter what the victim is doing,” says Donnelly Bader.  “It`s not their fault.  We want people to stop blaming the victim.”

At the corner of Alton and East Third on the second floor of the Alton YWCA is where the exhibit will live for just this week.

All 14 outfits or articles of clothing are similar to those that victims were wearing when they were sexually assaulted, whether they were female, male or only a 6-year-old girl.

“The actual words are the words from survivors,” says Donnelly Bader.

“When you see that little dress it`s like, it happens.  I practiced family law for 35 years it`s not an aberration.  It happens.”

At the Alton YWCA, their mission is to eliminate racism and empower women.

It`s fair to say “What You Were Wearing” might take your breath away, but it`s also helping give a voice to others.