On April 24, 2019, University of Tennessee, Knoxville students came together to participate in Denim Day. The event was a part of “Sexual Awareness Month.” By wearing denim, students supported sexual assault survivors.
Denim Day, now an international movement, started in Italy during the 1990s. The Italian Supreme Court overturned a rapist’s conviction because the victim was wearing tight jeans. The first women to participate were the women of the Italian Parliament. They came to work the next day wearing tight jeans. Women around the world came to know this story and since then, many have participated in this movement. They strive to show their support and spread awareness for sexual assault victims.
The booth also featured small pieces of denim. Beyond wearing denim, the booth asked students to write a short message of encouragement to victims with markers. Students were given clothes pins to choose a spot on a clothesline to hang the denim. Words of support and comfort filled the clothesline less than an hour into the event. Volunteers also provided information on UT resources for sexual assault victims.
Messages such as, “YOU ARE LOVED,” “it is NOT your fault” and “Don’t be afraid to say NO!” overlapped each other on the line. The messages demonstrated support and love towards victims. They also urged people to stand up for themselves if they can.
UT’s Center for Health Education and Wellness works with volunteers like Hannah Nelson, a UT junior and VOLs 2 VOLs member, to make this event possible. Several events have been thrown throughout the month in support of Sexual Assault Awareness month, including “Hike the Hill in Heels”. VOLS 2 VOLS offers presentations and programs throughout the year. By doing so, they spread awareness varying from sexual health to healthy relationships.
“A lot of times survivors can feel like they’re on their own, like they’re the only ones who have ever been through that and I think it is really important for them to understand that there is a support system out there and there are resources,” Nelson said.
One resource mentioned was the university’s Title IX office. This office is a safe place for students. For those that have been victims of sexual assault, this office provides them resources to recover.
“We wear jeans in support of survivors because it never matters what a survivor is wearing, we believe survivors, we support survivors,” a graduate assistant from UT’s College of Social Work, Amanda McClellan said.
Edited by Grace Goodacre and Kaitlin Flippo
Featured photo by staff Sgt. Paige Behringer, Courtesy of Creative Commons