This Photo Series Brilliantly Calls BS on the 'She Was Asking for It' Argument

May 8th 2016

Victims of sexual assault endure a host of problems after being attacked. Many of them face ongoing trauma, doubt from others, and victim-blaming for what happened to them.


A common form of victim-blaming is questioning what the victim was wearing at the time he or she was assaulted. This reinforces the idea that sexual assault victims were "asking for it" and does not hold the assailant fully responsible for committing the sexual assault. But one photographer is calling out the absurdity of that argument with a photo series of clothes that victims were wearing at the time of their sexual assault.

Photographer Katherine Cambareri was inspired to create the photo series in part by Jon Krakauer's nonfiction book "Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town," she told The Huffington Post. Cambareri also studies global public health at Arcadia University, and that informed her decision, she told ATTN: in an email.

Well, What Were You Wearing?Katherine Cambareri - katcphoto.com

"I believe that the public needs to educate themselves on the fact that sexual assault can happen to anyone and does not focus on any one style, type of clothing, or size, which I aimed to show in my project," Cambareri told ATTN:. "Having a public health background definitely made me think about society as a whole and how changes need to start small, and I hope looking at my photos helps people change their mindsets."

Well, What Were You Wearing?Katherine Cambareri - katcphoto.com

Cambareri contacted sexual assault victims through Facebook and asked to photograph the clothes they were wearing when they were assaulted. Cambareri feared she would resurrect bad experiences for the victims but ultimately felt the project could do a lot of good for sexual assault victims, she told The Huffington Post. The victims' consent was also significant to her.

Well, What Were You Wearing?Katherine Cambareri - katcphoto.com

Cambareri told ATTN: that the public response to her photo series has been "mixed."

Well, What Were You Wearing?Katherine Cambareri - katcphoto.com

"Most people have been extremely supportive of this project," Cambareri said. "I've had survivors of sexual assault reach out to me thanking me for doing this project and doing my part in ending victim-blaming, and that has been the most rewarding part of this project for me. I've had people from several countries contact me, which has made me realize what a widespread problem sexual assault is."

Well, What Were You Wearing?Katherine Cambareri - katcphoto.com

But some people miss the point of the project, Cambareri said.

"Some people think I'm choosing to only show modest clothing, when in reality, that is all I have received so far," Cambareri said. "These people then think that my message is that I'm saying people who wear modest clothing shouldn't be assaulted, but it's OK if people who wear revealing clothing are assaulted. However, that is NOT what I am saying at all. Sexual assault occurs because a person decides to assault someone else and for no other reason. Excuses should never be made for perpetrators. My goal is to challenge society's assumptions about sexual assault, one of them being that people who are assaulted ask for it in some sort of way, which is completely untrue."

Well, What Were You Wearing?Katherine Cambareri - katcphoto.com

Check out Cambareri's full photo series here.

RELATED: The Sexual Violence Problem We Don't Talk About Enough

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