Denim Day will work to end sexual violence stereotypes

RSVP staffer Marlee Ellison: “Denim Day is a huge global thing now, which is really powerful.”

The Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center is using a pair of jeans to battle stereotypes about sexual violence.

For Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the RSVP Center will host Denim Day on April 28. Coordinators will be standing outside the Student Center passing out pins and raising awareness through interactive games and denim that students can sign in support of sexual assault victims.

“The goal is to teach people what Denim Day is about and what the dynamics of sexual assault are,” Denim Day coordinator Kristyn Young said. “I think personally it’s really important because it specifically targets sexual assault and victim blaming.”

The first Denim Day, in 1999, was inspired by a sexual assault in Rome seven years prior. A 45-year old driving instructor picked up an 18-year old woman for her first driving lesson. What ensued was an alleged rape, a death threat and an eventual conviction for the alleged rapist.

But the Italian Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 1998. Because the victim wore tight jeans, the court reasoned the act must have been consensual since she would have had to help the attacker remove them.

The ruling sparked protest in the Italian Parliament, and the next day, women in the legislature wore jeans to dispel the “denim defense” of alleged rapists. Eventually, the rest of the world caught on and in April 1999, California established the first Denim Day in the U.S.

Since then, according to, “wearing jeans on Denim Day has become a symbol of protest against erroneous and destructive attitudes about sexual assault.”

Although sexual assault affects both men and women, Denim Day disputes the tight clothing stereotype that women mainly face.

“I think it challenges the whole, ‘Oh, but she wanted it’ stereotype, which has been getting better in recent years because of things like this, but it’s still a problem,” RSVP staffer Marlee Ellison said. “Denim Day is a huge global thing now, which is really powerful.”

One in five college women are raped. However, this does not discount men who have also been affected.

“You wouldn’t necessarily see that argument aimed towards male survivors, but I do not want to undermine that it happens to men,” Ellison said.

The RSVP Center wants every person to feel like they are safe no matter what they are doing, both women said. Even though society may warn women to not walk home late at night, or to not drink too much, the RSVP Center wants women to avoid accepting these ingrained ways of life.

“In reality, it’s never their fault,” Young said.

Denim Day stands for every person that has ever been sexually assaulted because of what they wore and experienced victim blaming.

“It’s more about eradicating the stereotypes,” Ellison said.

Edited by Waverly Colville |

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