On April 24th, 2019, millions of people across the nation donned denim to show support for those who have experienced sexual assault.
Denim Day emerged as a response to a 1998 Italian Supreme Court decision that overturned a rape conviction because the victim was wearing fitted jeans. The court concluded that her jeans were too tight for the alleged perpetrator to remove without her assistance, thus inferring that the intercourse was consensual. As news of the ruling spread, widespread global protests ensued. The day after the decision, women in the Italian Parliament went to work wearing jeans to criticize the “jeans alibi” ruling. Soon afterwards, members of the California Senate and Assembly wore denim to support the victim as well. As demonstrations spread from Europe to the United States, Patti Occhiuzzo Giggans, Executive Director of the non-profit organization Peace Over Violence, created Denim Day to protest the various myths and misconceptions surrounding consent and rape. Thus, very year since 1999, wearing jeans on Demin Day has become an international symbol of protest against sexual assault and victim blaming.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in three women and one in four men have experienced sexual violence within their lifetimes. These numbers are likely be underestimated as well since cases often go unreported. Victims may feel ashamed, reluctant, or scared to speak up especially if they have been threatened or do not think that help will be available. Even if survivors choose to report, justice is not guaranteed and the emotional, mental, and physical tolls are high. While sexual violence amongst the general population is already devastatingly prevalent, the United States Department of Justice found that harassment and assault are even more common on college campuses.
At Harvard, students and faculty wore denim and gathered to show their solidarity on Denim Day as well. The Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and the Consent Advocates and Relationship Educators at Harvard jointly organized an annual Denim Day event, where students were able to stop by the Science Center Plaza to pledge their support. Stickers and posters were distributed, and people had the opportunity to take photos togethers to spread awareness of sexual violence. Student teams and organizations were also encouraged to sign collective pledges in order to signify their group’s backing of the cause.
While in recent years, initiatives like Denim Day have significantly helped to facilitate conversations surrounding harassment and assault, sexual violence is still a topic that is far from adequately addressed and discussed within society. Ultimately, Denim Day is not the solution; it is just the very beginning of what needs to be done.
Make a Statement. Wear Denim.