Red my lips sexual abuse campaign 23 Apr 2015

Its no surprise to learn that what we wear and the way we present ourselves is likely to affect the way we are treated in the workplace; at special occasions such as weddings; funerals and when we are out and about socializing with friends.  We judge people initially by the way they look and then often by the way they act.  There is an old saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ but we are all guilty of judging people by their appearance.

What you wear can say a lot about you.  If a woman dresses like a man she can be seen as butch or too masculine in the same way that if a man dresses in clothes that bring out his feminine side, such as a pink shirt for example.  What we wear helps us fit in with our peer groups.

Sometimes what we wear can reveal a lot about our personality.  It is a form of freedom of expression. Our clothes place us where we want to be. They allow us to  fit in with our peers.

Dr Jennifer Baumgartner a Clinical Psychologist has said that “Americans rely on clothing as an economic and social indicator because there aren’t official marks of rank such as a caste system or aristocracy”.  She has also suggested that key psychological difficulties can be overcome by the way we dress.

Our clothes can project a good or bad image to others.  It’s the bad image that needs addressing.

Rape Crisis is a charity based in England and Wales and they provide information about how to get help and advice if you have been a victim of sexual violence including rape.  The way a woman dresses has been given as an excuse on a regular basis when a woman has been a victim of rape or sexual assault.  Revealing clothing; little or no underwear; too much make up can lead a person to assume that the woman was partly to blame for what happened to her if she has been a victim of sexual assault.  Further that the clothes are speaking for themselves, giving others an opinion before they have even spoken to the woman.

Freedom of expression in the way a person dresses should not in itself allow others to pass judgment on that persons lifestyle; wellbeing or personality.  Prejudice such as this leads to a women being exploited in order to damage her reputation and credibility in any such criminal proceedings.

It is because of such prejudice that many women do not report sexual assault.  The fear of being judged by others on what they look like and how they behaved prior to the sexual assault.

In reality it is not the woman’s behaviour that should be scrutinized to such a degree but that of the perpetrator of the assault.  The perpetrator who took advantage of the woman due to his perception of her because of what she was wearing.

In Australia a global campaign to dispel the myths that the victim is to blame for sexual assault led to men wearing red lipstick to get the message across.  The campaign ‘Red My Lips’  hopes to start new conversations about sexual violence.  Statistics reveal that there were 126,000 cases of sexual violence in Australia last year and the message is clear ‘don’t teach your girls what to wear teach your boys not to rape’.

The message is clear. If you have been a victim of sexual assault or sexual violence and criminal proceedings have been instigated and concluded, you may have a civil claim against the perpetrator and you should seek legal advice.

If you have been a victim of child abuse you can contact Stephanie Prior, head of the child abuse claims department at Osbornes for a free and confidential conversation on 020 7485 8811.  Alternatively, you can email Stephanie Prior at stephanieprior@osbornes.net

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