Marquette Wire

Denim Day shows solidarity for survivors of sexual violence

Photo by Wire Stock Photo

Photo by Wire Stock Photo

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On Denim Day, a pair of jeans is a way to protest.

The annual event started as a response to a 1998 Italian Supreme Court decision that overturned a rape conviction because it concluded that the victim’s jeans were too tight for the rapist to remove on his own. The court felt that the victim must have helped remove her jeans, which was taken as consent.

The next day, women in the Italian parliament wore jeans to show support for the victim.

The world saw their outrage and objection and ever since, on a Wednesday in April, people wear jeans to support survivors and protest sexual violence. April is also Sexual Assault Awareness month.

Cara Brook Hardin, deputy Title IX coordinator of the Division of Student Affairs, said students, staff and faculty across the university honored Denim Day this past Wednesday. Some people wore denim proudly, knowing the cause they were supporting. Other participants were unaware of the statement they were making by simply wearing jeans.

Shivani Kohli, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, said she was knew of the event. “I know it’s to show support for victims of sexual violence,” she said. She also said she tried her best to participate by adding a jean jacket to her outfit that day.

For most, the everyday act of wearing jeans will go unnoticed, but when University President Michael Lovell and Provost Daniel J. Myers wore jeans, Hardin said she knew something special was happening.

“Through the top down, that message was practiced and that was a really great thing,” Hardin said. “You make change through the masses. The more people who can show support for victims and send a message, the better we are.”

Sam Newberry, a senior in the College of Engineering, said solidarity is an important step, but establishing dialogue to rape culture is just as significant.

Newberry explained rape culture with examples such as the Stanford rape case and said often society and even the legal system minimize the attacker’s actions. “It was just this kid trying to get some, or she was drunk,” he said in a list of excuses that he said are perpetuated by society.

Denim Day is changing those perceptions, Newberry said. “It shows that we’re all here as a community.”

Newberry also discussed the way Title IX has changed in processing sexual assault cases and works to benefit students. “The victim has total control over what happens now,” he said. “It’s really giving that power back and that is starting to empower people.”

As a Title IX coordinator, Hardin said she takes and investigates complaints filed by students who were victimized. Hardin also said that support and resources are available on campus. “The most important goal is that victims get help so they can heal,” she said.

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