Denim Day at MU brings awareness, support

Thursday, April 28, 2011 | 6:50 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The tale of Denim Day, a day that aims to raise awareness about rape and support sexual assault victims, has surprised newcomers for years.

Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday at the MU Student Center, members of the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center and other campus organizations  offered pins, a denim craft and this story:

“In 1992, a young girl in Italy was raped on the side of the road by her driving instructor,” said Danica Wolf, coordinator of the prevention center.

The girl pressed charges and won. However, the instructor appealed the case shortly after, sending it to the Italian High Court.

“In 1999, the case was overturned when a member of the High Court said that since the victim was wearing very tight jeans, the instructor could not have removed them by himself, therefore the victim must have willingly participated,” Wolf said.

Women of the Italian legislature protested the decision by wearing jeans. In April 1999, Denim Day became an international event, starting in California.

Wolf said the event may seem outdated, but these same types of rulings happen around the world even today.  

"Australia, South Korea  — both have had similar rulings in recent years that were based on skinny jeans,” she said.

There’s still a lot of room for change, she said.

Aside from raising awareness, Denim Day is meant to show support for victims of sexual assault.

“One in four women will experience a rape or attempted rape by the time they graduate from college,” Wolf said.

And that’s a scary thing to think about, much less talk about, Alyssa Rogers, co-coordinator of the prevention center, said.

“Acknowledging that it happens that often means acknowledging that it’s probably happened to people you know and love,” Rogers said. “And no one wants to think about that. We all want to focus on things that affirm the belief that we live in a safe place.”

Rogers said she thinks there are thousands of survivors on this campus. “But they’re never going to walk around wearing T-shirts saying, 'I was raped,'” she said.

That’s why this event is perfect, she said. “Setting up these tables outside the Student Center, handing out pins, making denim crafts and telling people the story, … they all serve to show support for these victims.”

“Being a part of this day says, ‘Hey, we care about what happened to you,’” Rogers said. “And we’re doing everything we can to stop it from happening to others.”

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