Five Red Deer College nursing students sat silently Thursday while holding signs with various descriptions of clothing, including “I was wearing plain grey sweatpants, and an oversized hoodie, my hair was in a messy bun …”
Without saying a word, the students wanted to convey a message – if a woman is the victim of a sexual assault, it doesn’t matter what she was wearing.
Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre, and the second-year nursing students, hoped to raise awareness about victim blaming at the this is what I was wearing when it happened event during International Women’s Day.
Signs like “I was wearing a nude bra, a white cami and navy blue shorts,” told real stories of sexual assault victims organizers found online.
Heather Mcivor, a second-year nursing student and a co-organizer of the event, said students were wearing items of clothing – a sundress, a long floral dress, basketball shorts, a hoodie, shorts, etc. – that real women were wearing when they were sexually assaulted.
She said often sexual assault victims are asked “what were you wearing?”
“That’s entirely inappropriate. You can be wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt or you can be wearing a tank top and shorts and it can still happen to you,” she said.
Vishalini Chilaka, a second-year nursing student, was holding a sign that read, “I was wearing a long floral dress.”
Chilaka said she volunteered for the event to break the silence.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from, it happens to all of us, and it (the issue) needs to be heard,” said Chilaka.
Samantha Hann, also in her second year of nursing, said victims already feel like they’re to blame for the sexual assault, and it doesn’t help them when they are asked what they were wearing.