Trigger warning: sexual violence.
Denim Day is held every year on April 29th, recognized since 1999 in America as a symbol to unite with all survivors of sexual assault. It started in 1992 in Italy when an 18-year-old girl was raped by a 45-year-old man who was her driving instructor. After he drove her to an isolated road and forcefully raped her, she reported him and he went to jail. After seven years he appealed the sentence and the court agreed, saying that since the jeans were tight, she must have had to help him take them off, therefore resulting in her consent.
After this verdict, the women of the Italian parliament were outraged and wore jeans to work in protest. They held signs saying "Jeans: An Alibi For Rape."
Peace over Violence organized Denim Day and has grown internationally and is now recognized every year to stand with the survivor in Italy and others like her.
Clothes have nothing to do with consent.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC for short) is a great organization that brings awareness to the impact caused by sexual violence. All of the statistics in this article will be from their data. Founded in July 2020, the NSVRC is a perfect place for those who are interested in becoming educated on the topic. Here are some statistics I was shocked to read (in no particular order):
- One in five women will be raped at some point in their lives and for men, one in seven
- One in four girls will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old and for boys, one in six
- One in five women are sexually assaulted while in college and for men, one in sixteen
- Rape costs the U.S. more money annually than any other crime at $127 billion, including assault ($93 billion), murder ($71 billion), or drunk driving ($61 billion)
- The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12 to 14 years old, and the average age for boys is 11 to 13 years old
- More than one-third of women who report being raped before age 18 also experience rape as an adult
- Health care is 16% higher for women who were sexually abused as children
- 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, making rape the most under-reported crime
- Only 12% of child sexual abuse is reported to the authorities
- 81% of women and 35% of men report significant short-term or long-term impacts such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Rape culture is everywhere, although to some it might be hard to spot. A prime example is the idea that women should learn to not tempt the man and take precautions to prevent rape, instead of teaching the man to not rape. Another example is the idea that rape occurs because of anything other than rapists.
As much as it means to not add to rape culture, it isn't enough. "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." -Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1984 and a human rights activist. When you don't actively support and uplift sexual violence victims, you're choosing the side of the attacker.
Society is a confusing place for young girls. We're dressed up straight out of the womb in cute pink rompers and immediately taught that our appearance is what matters. Then in middle school, we're blessed with a dress code, telling us what we cannot wear. Nothing makes sense. How can we be safe enough by not showing our shoulders and wearing knee-length shirts (that no brand of clothing makes, by the way)? How can we be attractive enough if we aren't showing enough curves or skin? Who made these rules? Who do they exist for?
More importantly, why does our worth lie in the clothing we're wearing?
The truth is, it doesn't. Our beauty and our worth has nothing to do with the number of followers we have on Instagram, our body count, and especially not the clothes on our backs. Our style should not be confined to what we think others can "handle". Our self-respect also does not depend on the clothes we decide to wear. Clothes are clothes.
If you or anyone you know is a victim of sexual violence, the national sexual assault hotline is 1-800-656-4673.