Denim Day to address misconceptions about sexual assault

Denim Day was inspired by a protest against an Italian Supreme Court ruling that overturned a rape conviction based on the belief that a victim's jeans were tight and implied consent. Abby Roper | Photographer

By Rory Dulock | Staff Writer

To address misconceptions about sexual assault during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Baylor’s Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office will be hosting Denim Day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 24 at the SUB Stage.

“We invite the entire campus to wear denim in recognition of SAAM Denim Day, which was established in 1999 to stand in solidarity with survivors and to shift misconceptions around sexual assault,” the Presidential Perspective read.

Dr. Valerie Willis, education and prevention specialist for the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office, said Denim Day was inspired by a protest against an Italian Supreme Court ruling that overturned a rape conviction based on the belief that a victim’s jeans were tight and implied consent.

“That decision sparked outrage, and the women in the Parliament decided, ‘We’re going to wear jeans and stand in solidarity as a gesture of this not being OK,'” Willis said. “And so that kind of gave birth to Denim Day, and organizations and individuals adopted that. They used it as an opportunity to address these misconceptions and create a global movement and awareness of sexual violence prevention and education.”

Willis said there will be a Denim Day photo booth to show that support publicly and on social media. There will also be other initiatives to take part in during the event.

“We’ll have signs people can use with facts that we want to put out there so we can dismantle any misconceptions and signs of support, as well as Denim Day buttons,” Willis said. “One of the things I’m really excited about is we were able to get 125 denim parts and fabric markers where people can write a message of support. We will then safety pin it onto a tablecloth made of denim for the Advocacy Center, which we will give it to them after the event. And then, of course, we’ll have a table of resources, support and counseling services.”

Kenosha, Wis., junior Lily Peterson said events centered around sensitive topics like sexual assault are important because they offer an open space for discussion and education about subjects that many people are afraid to acknowledge.

“It tells those who have been victims of such events that they are heard and that what they went through is worth talking about,” Peterson said. “A lot of times, people are afraid to open up about experiences like this because they fear that the sensitivity around the topic will result in backlash or judgment. By offering events that are aimed at raising awareness and opening its attendance to the collective student body, Baylor offers a sort of safety in numbers, giving people more confidence to navigate the topic.”

Peterson said Denim Day addresses prejudices surrounding sexual assault, and events like it are needed to remind the community of how to discuss the problem.

“Denim Day is an important part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month because it goes the extra step to remind society of the types of prejudices that can be involved in a topic that is already extremely difficult to navigate,” Peterson said. “By emphasizing that bias is not only possible but actively present in such situations, Baylor helps to provide … [advocacy] on behalf of those who experience or could experience it.”

Willis said the event will allow people across campus to learn about the resources that are available to them through Baylor while showing support to others.

“I just think that [the event] really speaks to how it’s not just reactive, it’s very proactive and preventative and responsive,” Willis said. “I think this is a great time to showcase some of these programs. It shows community engagement when we’re all involved and makes us feel connected in some way when sometimes it can feel large and hard to connect.”

Staff Writer Ashlyn Beck contributed to this report.