January 16, 2018 / 3:32 PM / 8 months ago

Brussels recreates rape victim outfits in exhibition

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A new exhibition in Brussels showcases the stories of student rape victims by recreating the outfits they wore during their assault, inspired by a project created by students at the University of Kansas.

Visitors are seen at the exhibition "What Were You Wearing?" that showcases the stories of U.S. student rape victims through representations of the outfits they wore during their assault, in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, Belgium January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Delphine Goossens, a worker in prevention services in the Belgian capital, took the original testimonies of the Kansas students, translated them into Dutch and French, and gathered pieces of her and her co-workers’ own clothing to represent the outfits described in the exhibition, “What Were You Wearing?”.

Clothes are displayed at the exhibition "What Were You Wearing?" that showcases the stories of U.S. student rape victims through representations of the outfits they wore during their assault, in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, Belgium January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Goossens reached out to the original creators for permission to recreate the Kansas exhibition after reading about it last September. She housed the exhibition at the Molenbeek Maritime Community Centre, where she works.

Goossens hopes the exhibition continues to spread around Europe.

“I think a school can make it, or a university,” she said. “It’s easy.”

Slideshow (3 Images)

Hanging on panels around the room were several outfits, including a pair of pyjamas, a bathing suit, a child’s school uniform and police attire. There was also a wall dedicated to three outfits from the three times one woman was raped. Another displayed a single outfit representing the clothes a woman wore the three times she was assaulted.

Liesbet Verboven, one woman touring the exhibit, said her experience was an emotional one. A friend of hers was assaulted and had a poor experience with the police, who blamed her decisions and location for the incident.

“It leaves a big impact to see all these clothes, that it can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere,” Verboven said. “I hope it can change the mindset of people that blame the victims of violence and rapes.”

According to information accompanying the display, 56 percent of Belgians know of at least one person who has been a victim of sexual violence. In addition, one out of four women have experienced physical harassment in public spaces.

“What Were You Wearing?” will remain on display until Jan. 20.

Editing by Julia Fioretti and Peter Graff

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