Baylor community ‘breaks silence’ surrounding sexual assault through Denim Day

The Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office organized the Denim Day event in the Bill Daniel Student Center, complete with a photo booth, Common Grounds coupons and pins. Abby Roper | Photographer

By Ashlyn Beck | Staff Writer

In honor of Denim Day and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, students, faculty and staff all around campus wore denim Wednesday to stand with sexual assault victims and debunk misconceptions about sexual violence.

“We invite the entire campus to wear denim in recognition of SAAM Denim Day … to stand in solidarity with survivors and to shift misconceptions around sexual assault,” President Linda Livingstone said in a Presidential Perspective email.

Denim Day originated in 1999 when the Italian Supreme Court overturned the rape conviction of an 18-year-old girl by a 45-year-old man. Justices said that because the girl was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped the rapist take them off, implying consent.

Baylor began observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month in 2016, and It’s On Us BU started the “What Were You Wearing, Waco?” campaign in 2018.

The Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office organized the Denim Day event in the Bill Daniel Student Center, complete with a photo booth, Common Grounds coupons and pins. Attendants were encouraged to write messages on denim hearts and have their pictures taken, which will then be sent to survivors.

“[Denim Day] is an opportunity — a very public opportunity in person but also on social media — to say, ‘Yes, I’m going to stand with these survivors but also denounce some of these misconceptions and put some facts out there to promote it,’” Dr. Valerie Willis, education and prevention specialist in the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office, said.

The Denim Day event also included information about resources like Title IX and the Counseling Center, as well as other Sexual Assault Awareness Month events.

Willis said Sexual Assault Awareness Month events are powerful because they show the public will not be complacent in the fight against sexual violence.

“Anytime we have public participation, it really does show solidarity more to the victims than anyone else,” Willis said. “People who have perpetrated these acts find power in the silence.”

Participating in Denim Day, attending events and wearing pins helps people turn their claims into action, Willis said.

“By putting that light on there, it’s a genuine way for that not to be just a word,” Willis said.

Willis said the Sexual Assault Awareness Month events are not only ways to stand with survivors but also ways for victims to get the help they need.

Further, Willis said when people participate in the events, they give others the confidence to take a stand as well.

“Seeing the display of clothes outside, people taking photos, someone being brave and coming to a tabling event or going to take a photo gives other people the competence to do so,” Willis said.

Louisville, Ky., sophomore Eliza Denly wore denim Wednesday in honor of Denim Day. Denley said she wanted to take every opportunity to honor those who have suffered from sexual assault.

“I wore denim today, because why wouldn’t I?” Denley said. “Why wouldn’t you try to support in every way you can and bring awareness to this really prevalent issue?”

Denley said one of the biggest problems surrounding sexual assault is the fact that some think it should be kept “hush hush.” She said she wants people to feel like they can talk about it and to tell survivors that what happened to them is not OK.

“I want to do anything I can do to help someone feel less alone,” Denley said.