EVENTS AND CULTURE EDITOR
Embellished jeans, distressed denim jackets and ‘90s inspired jean skirts are staples in many university students’ wardrobes, but on Wednesday students donned denim for a greater purpose: to raise awareness about sexual assault and support survivors.
Denim Day, a project of Peace Over Violence, is an international campaign that was inspired 19 years ago when an Italian court overruled a rape conviction because the victim was wearing tight jeans. According to denimdayinfo.org, the justices believed that the victim must have had to help the perpetrator remove the pants, and argued that that indicated her consent.
This ruling caused outrage, and the next day women in the Italian Parliament wore jeans to protest the decision. Through the organization of an annual Denim Day in April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness month, the spirit of protest and activism against sexual assault continues.
At the university, students, university offices and registered student organizations, including Planned Parenthood Generation Action, The Know More Campaign, Students Acting for Gender Equity (SAGE) and The American Association for University Women (AAUW) among others, gathered on The Green in recognition of the day.
“We participate as a college to show that we support survivors and this year in particular we are really focusing on consent,” Megan Bittinger, an intern for Student Wellness and Health Promotion and the main organizer of the event, says. “It is really important that we understand what the actual definition of consent is because it is absolutely not ‘a woman was wearing skinny jeans.”
Consent is defined as “a clear coherent verbal yes and it can be freely given or taken at any point,” according to Bittinger, a senior criminal justice and women and gender studies major.
The visible presence of being on The Green and wearing denim as a symbol for solidarity is an important aspect of the event’s mission to support survivors and educate the public.
“I think it’s significant that we’re here on The Green because it makes sure that this issue isn’t being overlooked,” Nina Harmon, a senior political science and women and gender studies major and representative for Planned Parenthood Generation Action says. “By being here, it brings it to the students’ and administration’s attention that this matters, and we matter and we’re here and we want you to come talk to us and learn.”
Morgan Baumann, a junior criminal justice, sociology and women and gender studies major, heard about the event from one of her professors and decided to stop by in support.
“I have a lot of friends who have had sexual offenses happen to them and I don’t want that to happen to anyone,” Baumann says. “I think that raising awareness will bring this issue in the know more. I think events like this are helpful because they provide a lot more information that people don’t know.”
The event aims not only to inform the public about sexual assault and show support for survivors, but also to inspire people to become more engaged.
“Educate yourself as much as possible and if you want to learn more, get involved,” Bittinger says. “All of these organizations are always looking for support and student support. Being a support person for a survivor and supporting the issue area in an informed way is the most important thing you can do.”