Denim Day event gives voice to victims of sexual offenses, abuse

 

The annual Denim Day event, when people come together all over the world and wear denim during the events as a reminder that your clothes don’t determine consent, took place on the Mall in front of the Great Hall at Pierce on Wednesday, April 29.

Event coordinator Holly Hagan, who has experienced sexual assault and domestic violence, believes that there is something to be learned from victims and that it is important for victims to share their stories and bring awareness.

“I’m a survivor of both sexual assault and domestic violence,” Hagan said. “If something bad happens to you, bring awareness.”

Denim Day began after the Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction. The court ruled that because the victim was wearing tight jeans, she must have assisted in taking them off, making it consensual and not rape.

One of the ways the event brings awareness is through the Clothesline Project, which uses t-shirts to tell the stories of people who have suffered violence or abuse. Messages written on the shirts, which were hung on clotheslines, told the stories of students who had been victims of sexual and domestic violence.

The display served as an outlet for survivors and brought awareness to these issues.

“The Clothesline Project allows students who were victims or survivors of rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, same sex issues and stalking to tell their stories,” Hagan said. “They write their stories on t-shirts, and we display the shirts for awareness,” Hagan said.

Students and faculty took notice of the shirts along the Mall. Kariann Coe, psychology major, was one of many who stopped to read them.

“I suffer from anxiety and depression myself, and I know what it feels like to be scared and not know what to do about it,” Coe said. “Of course it’s nothing compared to what some of these people have gone through.”

Sexual assault, domestic violence and rape aren’t gender-specific crimes. While women are more commonly the victims of these crimes, men aren’t impervious to these acts of violence.

“We’ve had quite a few stories from men, and you’d be surprised at how often this happens to men,” Hagan said. “They’re just less likely to report it.”

Hagan said she is especially moved when she sees men stop to discuss the display.

“One of my favorite things during the event is when I see a group of young men crowded around the shirts and talking about it,” Hagan said. “It’s hitting them too, and the victim could be their sisters or their mothers. It really brings a great amount of awareness, and that’s what we need.”

Sociology major Jose Moran is a member of both the Feminist Club and the Gay Straight Alliance. Moran said he has experienced abuse in relationships and believes it’s important to seek help.

“I’ve been in a couple of relationships where I was physically and mentally abused, but I had the opportunity to get out of them,” Moran said. “Relationships aren’t supposed to be abusive or controlling.”

Moran said he supports the Denim Day event, and hopes it encourages victims to reach out.

“People should seek help and find resources. I’m glad they have this event,” he said.

Giselle Mendez, an intern at the Student Health Center, was one of the volunteers who assisted with the event. In addition to handing out t-shirts that students could write their stories on, the center also handed out rape whistles and brochures from different organizations.

“It’s great that these students who were victims, or know someone that was a victim of sexual violence, are speaking up and saying it’s never too late to speak up or fight,” Mendez said. “They’re saying we’re strong and this is not something that should stop us, but something we can grow from.”