Attire as awareness

Attire as awareness

Pierce College ASO held a Denim Day and Clothesline Project event for students and staff members to raise awareness for the violence, abuse and assault that continues to happen within our communities.

Shirts hang on a clothes line with stories of sexual assault victims at the Pierce College Denim Day event in Woodland Hills, Calif., on April 26, 2023. Photo by Rachael Rosenberg

Denim Day has been a Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaign for the last 24 years and occurs on the last Wednesday of April. 

With a visual display of historical shirts from previous years, people were able to walk around the clothesline of t-shirts with survivor’s stories written on them. There were also new t-shirts that people could write on and hang up on this year’s clothesline. 

The colors of the t-shirts represented different meanings and gave students the chance to choose which one embodied their experience. 

Red, pink and orange represented survivors of rape and sexual assault. Yellow represented battered or assaulted people. Blue and green represented survivors of incest and sexual abuse. Purple represented those attacked because of their sexual orientation and white represented those who died because of violence. 

Psychology major Bekah Ford voiced their power by writing their own experience on a pink t-shirt. 

“I am a survivor of both rape and sexual abuse in an abusive relationship,” Ford said. “This day means a lot to me because I have experienced a lot of victim blaming perpetrated by so-called friends that are no longer in my life. I think this campaign helps change our society by just overall awareness of the problem of sexual assault, its prevalence of it in our society and how it affects everyone.”

Ford shared the emotions they felt when participating in an event like Denim Day, as well as the pride they felt in surviving the trauma they endured. 

Catherine Andres looks at shirts with stories of sexual assault victims at the Pierce College Denim Day event in Woodland Hills, Calif., on April 26, 2023. Photo by Rachael Rosenberg

“I did feel empowered, but I also felt a little bit of pride,” Ford said. “I wrote on my shirt the fact that I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor and a warrior. I pride myself in the fact that I have survived multiple traumatic experiences and I’m a better person as a result of it.”

Student Engagement Coordinator Lara Conrady Wong organized this year’s Denim Day to ensure the campus honored victims and survivors and provided them with extra resources if needed. 

“This is a very visual event,” Conrady Wong said. “A lot of students come by to check out the historical shirts as students have written on in the past. Some want to write, some have a story to share so we have the Health Center here just in case students or staff members need extra support.”

ASO Peer Mentor Keke Gbewonyo helped to set up the Denim Day event, and she acknowledged how valuable it was for students to see the support they have around them. 

“Denim Day is really important for sexual assault survivors and awareness,” Gbewonyo said. “Having the clothesline with people’s stories and taking back their power and what happened to them is really important to showcase around campus as a huge sign of support.”

Conrady Wong spoke about the variety of ways to participate in an event like Denim Day and the importance of creating a safe place for it on campus. 

“I really commend students for participating in an event like this,” Conrady Wong said. “Whether you’re a survivor or you know someone that’s a survivor or maybe you know someone who didn’t make it, there’s a variety of ways that people can participate in honoring each other and having a safe place on our campus to be creative about sharing their experience.”