What Was She Wearing Exhibition to stop victim-blaming

The Covid-19 pandemic amplified the magnitude of violence against women and girls in the country as a whole. Rape and other sexual assault survivors coped with life post-traumatic experience, and one of the questions sometimes asked is, “What were you wearing?”

Victim blaming remains a problem in sexual assault cases and survivors are often questioned on the assumption that they were somewhat responsible for the sexual hostility against them.

WhatSheWore Exhibition

This year, Education as a Vaccine commemorated the 16 Days of Activism in Benue and Kaduna states with a What Was She Wearing exhibition. The exhibition aimed at tackling one of the most pervasive myths of rape culture by using storytelling and images to shift negative norms, break the culture of silence and push for the full implementation of the Violence against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act in the states.

The event, which was attended by government representatives, traditional leaders, and community members highlighted the urgent need to scale up support for advocacy for the implementation of the VAPP Act.

The exhibition in both states featured 43 real-life stories of sexual violence and representations of what survivors wore when assaulted, with a stern message that what a survivor wore does not in any way make them culpable for abuse.

The knowledge of the Violence against Persons Prohibition Act will prompt community action to support the elimination of violence against women and girls in different communities.

“We should make available fliers with information on the VAPP act and distribute in the communities because very few people are aware of the VAPP act and its punishments. It will also be very helpful if community dialogues for men, women, and youth are held in the various communities every Saturdays for more awareness creation”, Josephine James, Doka community, Kaduna state.

The clothes of these 43 survivors hung at exhibition centres included: A black-flowery top and dark blue jean. Jeans and a long-sleeved shirt with white flowers. A white and pink dress. A school Uniform. A white and pink dress. Ankara dress. There

A White and Pink Dress. Chiamaka, 11 Years Old

is no justification for the assault!

The event climaxed with the presentation of the Key Advocacy asks and their targets from the girls’ advocates. They included:

  • Implement the VAPP act in the states by trying cases and using the appropriate penalties if found guilty—-Min. of Justice, Police Commission,
  • Stop Collection of small fines and letting perpetrators go free—–Community leaders, Police commission
  • Build a shelter for survivors who are still at risk—Governor, Min of Women Affairs, NAPTIP
  • Train officers responding to handle cases of sexual assault as crimes and not just misdemeanours that only require a warning. —– Police Commission
  • Train officers to abandon the practice of victim-blaming—-Police Commission
  • Establishment of SARCs and funding for existing ones with clear budget provisions—–Governor

“It is obvious that when survivors who are under the same roof with perpetrators are taken away to a different residence they have more boldness to pursue justice reason been that no more treats are coming from perpetrators. Also, we need the government to establish sexual assault referral centres for survivors in our state”. Nancy Gbaorun, What She Wore Advocates, Benue state

The exhibition is our way of saying that this culture of violence and abuse against girls and women has to stop! Gone are the days when we would turn a blind eye because of fear, rejection, and discrimination. We are creating new conversations and challenging the social attitude about sexual violence and the treatment of victims.


Written By: Bayo Olanrewaju Ewuola