Emma Kelsey – Staff Writer
On the last Wednesday of every April, Denim Day takes place as a part of Sexual Assult Awareness Month. This day promotes action and awareness on the topic of sexual assault, especially as it relates to victim blaming.
People are encouraged to wear denim, not only as a promotion of the movement, but a stand in solidarity with victims who are blamed for sexual assault.
This year, Denim Day took place on April 27, and Gustavus orgs like the PAs (Peer Assistants), IGNITE, SRF (Students for Reproductive Freedoms), SART (Sexual Assault Response Team), and WAC (Womyn’s Awareness Center), came together to make a day where Gusties could participate in and support the movement.
Ellie Hartmann (‘23) who is a part of the SRF org describes the event as a time where Gusties had the opportunity to participate in a multitude of activities in the CIE including “painting denim patches, donating denim clothing, sharing in community with one another to support sexually assault survivors, and eating great food.” Additionally, a table stood outside the Gustavus Wellness Center throughout the week, with pamphlets and squares of denim, which some Gusties opted to pin on their bags in a way to support the movement.
“Denim Day is a day to support survivors of sexual assault, end victim blaming, and come into community to stop sexual violence through education, community, and political action,” Hartmann said.
Denim Day came into existence as a result of a 1999 Italian Supreme Court case where an 18-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by her 45-year-old driving instructor. The judge ruled that the girl had to have consented to this assault, since her pants were tight jeans; the judge believed that she must have had to help her assaulter take her pants off, therefore consenting to the assault. Her assaulter was released from jail, the prosecutor went free, and the victim of assault was blamed for the violation committed against her.
This injustice lit a fire around the world on the issues of sexual assault and the false narratives regarding victims and consent. Women in Italy and soon across the world were enraged by this verdict and protested by wearing jeans as a symbol of solidarity with the victims of sexual assaults, and as an act of resistance against the mainstream narrative that victims are to blame for sexual assault.
Denim Day has continued as a national and international day of recognition, resistance, education, and support around issues of sexual assault.
It fights against assumptions often made about sexual assault, consent, and victims.
“The Gustavus Denim Day event joins into a greater movement of student organizations working at all times to support survivors, provide education on consent, and fight the victim blaming attitudes that contribute to situations like the 1999 court decision.” Hartmann said.
April 27, 2022, was a day for Gusties to join in on a movement that extends beyond campus–one which connects generations of women and victims throughout time, and across campuses, states, countries, and the world. This day is a chance for the Gustavus community to be a part of something bigger, and Gusties who enthusiastically participated have shown what it means to be a part of this movement.