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Students and faculty to wear denim in support of dispelling sexual assault misconceptions

| Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Members of the Notre Dame community will be wearing denim around campus Wednesday for a special cause.

This year marks the 18th year of Denim Day, an annual campaign that aims to raise awareness on sexual violence and victim blaming myths, and the fourth year the Gender Relations Center (GRC) is hosting the event at Notre Dame.

According to their website, the Denim Day campaign was started after an Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction on the reasoning that the 18-year-old victim’s jeans were too tight. Because of the tightness of her jeans, the court said she must have helped her rapist remove them, thereby implying consent. Enraged by this verdict, women in Parliament showed up to work in jeans the next day to demonstrate their solidarity with the victim and disapproval of the court’s ruling.

Christine Caron Gebhardt, director of the GRC, said Denim Day breaks the silence for victims of violence and acts as a concrete way to bring awareness to statements and questions that further isolate victims instead of supporting them.

“By questioning what someone is wearing or how much they were drinking, it shifts the focus to the victim doing something wrong rather than holding accountable a perpetrator who did not seek and receive consent,” Gebhardt said in an email. “Given the prevalence of sexual assaults, people wonder why folks do not tell someone or report. Some of the reasons are that victims are afraid people won’t believe them and they will be judged.”

Students, faculty and staff are invited to sign up for Denim Day at Notre Dame in South Dining Hall at lunch Tuesday by signing a pledge and receiving a sticker indicating their denim is worn as a statement against erroneous attitudes regarding sexual violence.

Gebhardt said students can take more initiative toward stopping victim blaming by taking the campus climate survey results and Clery Act warnings seriously.

“Don’t let people make a joke out of them,” she said. “These numbers and reports represent actual members of our ND family who have been harmed — and the number should not matter. One is too many.

“Come to ‘Take Back the Night’ and hear the courageous stories of survivors. Let them know they are not alone. Learn the resources on campus to help someone harmed, but also get trained on how to prevent these violations from happening in the first place.”

Denim Day is an easy way for students and faculty to show their support victims, Gebhardt said. She said although the campaign is a small step in the large fight against sexual violence, it is one that holds a lot of weight.

“It is a step that carries the hope of a vision of a campus where no one can ignore the issue of assault … where we stand against all forms of violence and we all do our part to prevent future harms,” she said. “It is  how our campus becomes a greeNDot community. Everyone can do a green dot on Wednesday. Just wear jeans and take the Denim Day pledge.”

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About Selena Ponio

Selena Ponio is from Dallas, Texas and is currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame. She is the Associate News Editor for The Observer. Selena lives in Breen-Phillips hall and is majoring in International Economics with a concentration in Spanish and is minoring in Journalism, Ethics & Democracy.

Contact Selena