Marquette Wire

Sexual Assault Awareness Month continues with Denim Day

Photo by Wire Stock Photo

Photo by Wire Stock Photo

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Wednesday will mark Marquette’s fourth annual Denim Day, an event during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Margaret Callahan, interim provost and dean of the College of Nursing, said Mayor Tom Barrett requested Milwaukee’s involvement in the day to change attitudes and stigmas around sexual assault and support sexual violence survivors.

The provost office’s staff, as well as the rest of the Marquette community, is encouraged to wear denim jeans to show their support.

“It’s an everyday thing — we all wear jeans — but Denim Day can symbolize the fact that it’s so often in the every day that people are blaming victims,” said Susannah Bartlow, director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center. “Nothing excuses sexual assault and there’s no victim behavior that can excuse a perpetrator’s action.”

Denim Day first began after an 18-year-old Italian woman was raped by her 45-year-old driving instructor in 1997. The convicted instructor appealed the sentence and the case went to the Italian Supreme Court where the it was overturned.

The decision was made because the woman was wearing very tight jeans, which she had to help her perpetrator remove. The head judge interpreted the act as consent. After the verdict, women in the Italian Parliament protested by wearing jeans on the steps of the Italian Parliament building.

“Nationally, one in four women will be the victim of sexual assault during her four years at college,” Callahan said in an email. “Since sexual violence is one of the most under-reported and least talked about crimes in the nation, Denim Day gives the Marquette community a chance to visually show support for survivors of sexual assault, and to help create changes in attitudes toward sexual assault and all types of sexual violence.”

Scott Kuykendal, associate director of athletic communications, said members of the athletics staff will participate in the day to bring attention to all types of sexual violence and display support for sexual assault survivors.

This year’s Sexual Assault Month also saw the completion of a study on “Normalizing Sexual Violence” by Heather Hlavka, assistant professor of sociology, which will appear in the next issue of the academic journal, Gender & Society. According to MSNBC, Hlavka found that objectification, sexual harassment and abuse are everyday experiences for many young women between the ages of three and 17.

“Some girls belittled others’ experiences, holding them responsible for their victimizations,” Hlavka wrote in her study. “Girls were criticized for not successfully maneuvering men’s aggressive behavior. Others didn’t report violence because they didn’t want to make a ‘big deal’ of their experiences.”

The university’s annual participation in Denim Day began in April 2011.

“The symbolism of the jeans is that we stand in solidarity with people who understand that nothing excuses sexual assault and there’s no victim behavior that can excuse a perpetrator’s action,” Bartlow said.

In addition to the educational efforts, the Center for Teaching and Learning will host a presentation for faculty on supporting students who report sexual assault Tuesday from 12:30 – 2 p.m. in Raynor Memorial Libraries, Study Room D on the lower level.

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