Lehigh students and people around the country showed support for survivors of sexual assault April 27 by participating in Denim Day.
Denim Day, a national event, started in 1992 after a sexual assault ruling was overturned in the Italian Supreme Court because the justice felt the victim’s jeans were so tight that she would have had to help take them off to be raped, thus implying consent.
The next day, the women in the courthouse showed up to work in jeans as a sign of protest.
The American-based group Peace Over Violence leads a national day to show support for victims of sexual assault. Lehigh has been participating in this event for the last several years. It is one of many events hosted by the Office of Gender Violence during April, which is sexual assault awareness month.
Break The Silence, Lehigh’s gender violence prevention club, is involved with the event. Break the Silence member Katherine Jalboot, ’17, said many members of the group wear a “Canadian tuxedo,” a denim shirt paired with denim pants or shorts.
Brooke DeSipio, the director of the Office of Gender Violence Education and Support, emphasized that this is an event where the faculty and staff can get involved too.
“I like this event because anyone and everyone can get involved,” DeSipio said. “All you have to do is wear your denim. You don’t have to be free to come to a speaker or have time to attend a workshop”.
DeSipio also said the event is more impactful on staff and faculty who typically have a very professional dress code. On Denim Day, they can come to work dressed down, and the change in their dress makes it obvious that they are supporting the cause.
DeSipio said the event is less noticeable with students because they always have the opportunity to wear denim.
This year, the Dean of Students office and the Career Center were involved with Denim Day.
The event was created so people all over the world in all different capacities of work could participate. This includes state offices, various businesses and universities.
DeSipio feels this particular event is important because it visibly raises awareness for sexual assault victims and provides a safe place on campus for survivors. It also raises awareness for the Office of Gender Violence Education and Support.
Dana Gallant, the graduate assistant for the Office of Gender Violence, advises Break the Silence meetings and said the event is a way for people to visibly support survivors.
Gallant likes this event in particular because it connects Lehigh with an international event and gives students an international perspective on sexual assault.
“Denim Day gives students a chance to raise awareness for sexual assault victims and to become more active and supportive of victims,” Gallant said.
This week, the theme for sexual assault awareness month was “prevention is possible.” Denim Day is just one of the events to educate the student body on sexual assault and create a safe space for survivors.
“I’m really hoping that student take an educational piece away from this event,” DeSipio said. “The main message is that what a person is wearing does not cause their sexual assault. You could be in a t-shirt and sweatpants, nothing sexy at all and you could still be sexually assaulted.”
DeSipio said she hopes this event will break some of the myths that surround sexual assault and show students there are different ways to show your support for victims.