Denim Day highlights support for sexual assault victims

Angel Tolstikhina

April 27 marked Denim Day on Washburn’s campus as a part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month that has been taking place around the globe. 

Washburn students wore denim or teal as a show of support for victims of sexual violence.

From 9 – 11 a.m. Ichabods decorated a denim pocket as a manifest of support for ending violence on Washburn campus, which resulted in many positive messages to survivors written by both male and female students.

“It was refreshing to see a lot of men participating and writing messages to support the victims of sexual assault,” said Shelly Bearman, project coordinator for a sexual assault education and prevention.

Later in the afternoon the Underground Union Ichabods came out to participate in “Walking the Walk” event where some of the visitors spoke with counselors and advocates from the YWCA Center for Safety and Empowerment and also beheld true-to-life material in order as a part of raising the awareness for power-based violence.

Denim Day is annually recognized worldwide and by at least 20 U.S. states in particular. Wearing jeans on this day has become an international symbol of protest against destructive prejudices about sexual assault and Washburn University is actively involved in raising awareness on such an issue.

Ever since the Italian Court overturned the conviction of a 45 year-old driving instructor who raped an incognizant 18-year-old female student based on the argument that she must have had to have helped the assaulter remove her jeans, thus making the act consensual.

“It is a fact of common experience that it is nearly impossible to slip off tight jeans even partly without the active collaboration of the person who is wearing them,” said the Italian Supreme Court.

Students wrapped teal ribbons around one in five trees on campus representing national statistics indicating one in five women experience sexual assault.

“I was surprised to find out that there is no need to try to convince people on campus about the importance of sexual assault prevention because they already do,” said Bearman. “Faculty and staff of WU are really invested in doing their best for students and that is what separates us.”

The effort to organize Denim Day came from multiple organizations on campus including Student Life, the SRWC, STAND, Counseling Services, Student Government and others. Altogether, the day event turned out to show that Washburn students and faculty members care about raising an awareness about sexual assault.

Bearman shared that Washburn is getting ready to launch a curriculum for bystander interventions by the beginning of next school year. The new program will offer students who wish to play a role in prevention of sexual violence to get training in how to interfere with sexual assault.

As of today, Washburn University identified four tracks of interference with sexual assault here on campus. The university initiated a law enforcement training about sensitive topics and trauma-informed care as well as evaluation of student conduct and disciplinary boards. By putting Bearman in charge of education and prevention of sexual assault projects as of Feb., Washburn ensured having an advocate in place in regard to the issue.  

“It is really not ever victim’s fault so there is nothing the potential victims can do to prevent themselves from sexual assault. The only factor that determines the risks is whether they are with the rapist or not. It doesn’t matter what you are wearing or whether you are drunk. If the person really cares, they will not take advantage of you,” said Bearman.