One morning the women in the Italian parliament justices came to work wearing their best denim jeans.
It was not casual Friday, it was an act of solidarity.
A 1998 Italian Supreme Court ruling overturned a rape conviction because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans, thereby implying consent.
Peace Over Violence, a Los Angeles nonprofit organization began the Denim Day campaign in 1999 as a response to this case and the activism surrounding it.
Since then, wearing jeans on Denim Day has become a symbol of protest against dismissive attitudes surrounding sexual assault and victim blaming. This year, Denim Day takes place around the world today, April 26.
Sharon Sullivan, professor of theater and women’s and gender studies, is involved with several organizations that work to fight against victim blaming tactics and sexual assault.
“What we’re wearing does not give anybody permission to touch us,” Sullivan said. “Our bodies belong to ourselves.”
According to Sullivan, when you blame victims for what happens to them we say that they are responsible for their own victimization. She stressed the danger of this misconception.
“Really the only people that can prevent rape, are rapists,” Sullivan said.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Denim Day is an easy way for individuals to stand in solidarity against sexual assault.
In a presentation on Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Emily Steimel, public education coordinator for the YWCA, talked about the importance of learning about these issues.
Throughout the month, the YWCA has been tabling in the Union, the library and the Law School to educate Ichabods about dating violence, sexual assault and what you can do to protect yourself and others.
Shelley Bearman, project coordinator for sexual assault education and prevention at WU, wants more students to be aware of sexual violence among college students.
According to Bearman, many people may be surprised that sexual assault can happen to anyone.
“Ten percent of all reported sexual assaults on campus are men,” Bearman said.
Bearman is hoping to bring speakers from across the country to WU’s campus next year to educate students about the prevention of sexual assault and violence.
The Washburn community will come together this Wednesday, denim clad, to denounce sexual assault and stand with victims all over the world.