Guest Opinions

The need for Denim Day awareness of sexual assault is as great as ever

Women’s and Children’s Alliance Executive Director Bea Black with a WCA mural along Main Street in downtown Boise.
Women’s and Children’s Alliance Executive Director Bea Black with a WCA mural along Main Street in downtown Boise. Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

I’d like to say the need for Denim Day, a day designed to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault and the danger of victim blaming, has passed. However, that is not the case. In fact, as the conversations taking place around the country have shown us, the need for Denim Day is even greater than ever.

Some may think that because more individuals are talking about sexual assaults and coming forward to share their stories as part of the #MeToo movement that we will soon be able to leave this topic behind. Quite the opposite is true. In fact, it is still difficult for anyone — man or woman — to challenge someone in power about unwanted sexual advances or assaults. I believe there is a lot of work that needs to be done to create environments that are truly safe for all victims to come forward and disclose when they are the subject of sexual assault and harassment.

So please join us on April 25 as we celebrate Denim Day to raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual assault and the need to support victims and denounce inappropriate behavior and abuse of power. Wearing denim on this day will show solidarity with survivors and individuals worldwide who are committed in their resolve to stop sexual assault.

It all began in 1992, when a young Italian woman of 18 was picked up by her driving instructor, taken to an isolated area and raped. In spite of threats to harm her and her family if she told anyone, she did tell her family and the rapist was convicted and put in prison. This should be the end of the story.

But, after six years of appeals — reaching all the way up to the Italian Supreme Court — the ruling was overturned and the rapist was released. The reason the court gave for the decision was that the young woman’s jeans were so tight that she must have helped take them off — thus making the sexual encounter consensual and not rape. The women in the Italian Parliament were horrified, and in solidarity wore jeans to work the next day in protest, marking the very first Denim Day.

National statistics indicate that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted by the time they are 18. These are appalling statistics. Men and women together need to support the work being done to make the reporting of sexual assaults expected, acceptable and believed — only then will we really make progress.

Please join me and make a statement by wearing jeans on Denim Day and by thinking of ways you can help advance the conversation. Visit wcaboise.org for more information.

Beatrice Black is executive director of the Women’s and Children’s Alliance.

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