By Lara Becker
Sentiments of love and support were written on squares of cut-up jeans at the Anti-Violence Initiatives’ table outside the Social Sciences Building from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 24 to commemorate Denim Day, an annual nationwide event for those who stand in solidarity with sexual assault survivors.
Strewn across the table were pieces of denim with messages in Sharpie sharing encouraging statements to survivors such as, “we support you” and “we love you.” Also on the table were buttons labeled, “ask me why I’m wearing denim,” to encourage supporters to spread the word of the story behind the day.
“We do this event to raise awareness in solidarity that any of us could be wearing anything and it wouldn’t matter,” said Katherine Smith, a senior communication studies and women’s, gender, and sexualities studies double major, who is also a third-year Student Anti-Violence Education peer educator.
According to Denim Day’s official website, the nationwide movement educates against misconceptions of sexual assault in honor of April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Denim Day began in 1999 after a ruling from Italy’s Supreme Court that overturned a rape conviction because the victim was wearing tight jeans, which the justices said implied consent since she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans.
The day after the hearing, women in the Italian Parliament wore jeans to work to show support for the victim. Since then, the Peace Over Violence nonprofit organization has helped to turn its campaign into Denim Day to stand with victims of sexual assault.
AVI on the College’s campus, as well as other campuses throughout the country, now calls attention to the movement on April 24 by bringing out denim jackets, pants and skirts.
Smith said that the clothes someone wears are not a defining factor in the consent between two people. She stated that the Italian Supreme Court’s ruling showed a lack of understanding and valid reasoning.
“We do this event every year, and ask people to wear denim to spread awareness of the issue,” Smith said, as she stood at the table in an all-denim dress.
Smith’s friend and fellow third-year SAVE peer educator Molly Knapp, a senior public health and women’s, gender, and sexualities studies double major, also wore head-to-toe denim at the AVI table.
She explained that Denim Day stands to put the mission of AVI and other similar groups in the spotlight as a way to show support of victims of any kind.
“We have counseling, advocacy and prevention, so we offer free and confidential counseling with licensed counselors on campus,” Knapp said.
She continued to discuss AVI’s liaison programs with freshman floors and Greek life, such as Greeks for Change. In both areas, the group works with students and volunteers to gain a better understanding of sexual assault prevention, awareness and activism.
Sophomore psychology major Lauren Petite wore denim in support of AVI and its message to the campus community.
“I really liked the idea of peace over violence in regard to sexual violence, that’s very important to me,” Petite said.
Petite said how she is an advocate for respecting all victims and for women’s rights. When she heard about the movement through some of the teachers and students with whom she was close high school, Petite found it powerful.
Smith also reinforced the purpose of the movement, saying that an assault is not relevant to the clothes that one wears.
“It shouldn’t matter what someone’s wearing, it shouldn’t matter what they’re doing,” Smith said. “Sexual assault is sexual assault.”