In 1997, an 18-year-old woman was raped by her 45-year-old driving instructor. After being convicted and jailed, her rapist was acquitted by the Italian Supreme Court because the victim was wearing tight jeans. The court ruled that since the victim was wearing tight jeans, the rapist would have needed her assistance to take them off, which would have made the actions consensual.
This court case became the inspiration for Denim Day, an international movement that aims to bring attention to issues of gender violence. Lehigh participated in its first Denim Day on Thursday, with the community being encouraged to wear various articles of denim clothing in support of the day.
Lehigh’s Denim Day was organized as a senior capstone project by Amanda Wilk, ’15, Lene Samuelsen, ’15, and Marni Zahorsky, ’15. David Fine, the assistant director of the Global Citizenship Program, also had a hand in spearheading the event on campus.
“The day has been overall a huge success,”Samuelsen said.
Those who worked to make the event possible said they hope it becomes an annual event in the future.
“I am hoping the day will help to raise awareness about gender violence on campus, in our local community and globally,” said Brooke DeSipio, the director of the Office of Gender Violence Education and Support.
Those who initiated this project also worked with the Study Abroad Office in order to include information related to sexual harassment and assault for students studying abroad.
“I believe this will continue to bring attention to issues of gender violence, which include rape, sexual assault and harassment, to campus,” Zahorsky said. “These have been particularly hot button issues on college campuses nationally within the past year or so, and we think it is very important for Lehigh to enter the conversation and create a dialogue.”
To further the movement, there will be a brown bag discussion on March 19 at 4 p.m. in Maginnes 101 to see the impact of the event and to discuss sexual assault and rape culture on campus. Those running Denim Day said they hope this will create a conversation about what Denim Day stands for and give those who attend a place to voice their comments.
Denim bows and facts about the issue were provided to people that stopped by the tables in the UC.
“In making the simple, conscious decision to throw on some denim in the morning, students, faculty and staff are working in solidarity to spread an important message across campus,” Wilk said. “This visual of everyone wearing jeans is speaking conversation about a typically silenced subject and that’s exactly what we are trying to achieve.”