Katherine Cambareri ’16 Debunks Sexual Abuse Stereotypes in Gallery Exhibition

By Caitlin Burns | June 7, 2016

Photo by Katherine Cambareri ’16 for her capstone project, “Well, What Were You Wearing?”

The Department of Art and Design and the Art Research Collaboration (ARC) Exhibition Program is hosting “Katherine Cambareri: Well, What Were You Wearing?” on display through July 15 at Arcadia University’s Judith Taylor Gallery.

Katherine Cambareri ’16 used her senior capstone presentation to debunk the age-old stereotype of “What were you wearing?” for sexual abuse survivors—a term Cambareri consciously uses instead of victims to show that they survived their ordeals, and are not living memorials of it.

As a photography graduate with a Global Public Health minor, Cambareri decided she could make a strong impact on viewers through visual depictions of clothing worn in sexual assaults, in order to start a conversation about victim-blaming. Inspired by the Jon Krakeaur book, Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, Cambareri decided to take on the stigma that the survivors were selected based on the clothes they wear. She said her goal was to show the unnecessary reason for asking “What were you wearing?” of sexual assault victims and that there is no correlation between what a victim wears and their attack.

Cambareri’s project has been featured in The New York Times, Huffington Post, SELF Magazine, and several British publications, including the Daily Mail and Metro UK.

“There’s this stereotype of how a sexual assault happens, and what a sexual assault victim looks like,” Cambareri said. “I want to end the victim-blaming. I want [people] to be uncomfortable, because if people don’t talk about this then nothing is going to change.”

Although her photographs only encompass college-age women, the project brings focus to the fact that 23 percent of female college students have been sexually assaulted, according to a recent study by the Association of American Colleges. Even more alarming is that only between five and 28 percent of these incidents are reported to police or campus officials.

“The only reason sexual assault happens is because a person assaults somebody else,” Cambareri said. “It’s not because of their clothing, or anything else.”