Denim Day draws attention to sexual assault

Denim Day draws attention to sexual assault

Ali Parandi

FOR THE QC

On Wednesday, April 25, two tables were set up for Denim Day from 11:00 a.m. — 2:00 p.m.: one in front of the Science Learning Center (SLC), and another in front of the Campus Inn (CI). Students signed their names on a pair of jeans, collected Denim Day Buttons, and posed for pictures while holding statements written on laminated sheets of why they wear denim. In Club 88, Director of Student Rights & Responsbilities and Lead Title IX Investigator Siobhan Skerrit hosted and ran the live webinar “Voices of Courage: Students Speak From the Frontlines of Sexual Violence Prevention,” a discussion on consent culture. Denim Day brought together students from all class years and from many different areas of campus to advocate for consent and prevention of sexual assault and/or rape.

This campaign was originally prompted by a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court in which a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans, thereby implying consent. In the rape prevention education campaign, community members, elected officials, businesses, and students are asked to make a social statement with their fashion by wearing jeans on this day as a visible means of protest against the  Court ruling and against misconceptions that surround sexual assault. 

Third-year Eryn Wells organized the event with the help of participant members of the Violence Intervention Program (VIP). Both Skerritt and VIP came together to share more of the ways in which Poets can help spread awareness to the issue of consent, especially on college campuses. “In a situation of an assault,” said Wells, “it is never the fault of the survivor. The issues lie in non-education and mis-insecurities of survivors. There are power dynamics and miscommunication in different settings.” Wells understands that in vulnerable situations where “your privacy is [being] violated, it’s difficult to communicate that you’re uncomfortable.” Because there isn’t a consensus of knowledge around consent, especially on college campuses, Wells suggests to “tell people upfront [that you’re uncomfortable],” so that lines are not blurred and feelings are not lost in translation. 

First-year Journee Bradford said that students need to “make sure [they] surround [themselves] in a group that focuses on empowering each other. Take the time to educate yourself on your rights.” 

 During the 60-minute “Voices of Courage: Students Speak From the Frontlines of Sexual Violence Prevention” webinar, Biden Courage Award honorees discussed the state of campus sexual assault prevention from the student perspective. 

In the webinar, the main message addressed was that sexual assault and violence can be prevented. The interviewer, Holly Rider-Milkovich, spoke about the barriers that get in the way of students knowing more about sexual assault and violence prevention. Kyle Richards, college football player, anti-sexual violence activist, and one of the Biden Courage Awards honorees, helped save an intoxicated woman from being raped in a bathroom. In this attempt, Richards was shot in the leg three times. Recalling the event, Richards said, “She felt that it was her fault that she was in the bathroom and that I got shot. You can be a hero to someone by speaking about it in your community. Be part of a change. The barrier is to connect with someone.” Another Biden Courage Awards honoree, Theresa Hinman, said that it’s “the small winds [that] make a big impact. Self-love is important. There is a support system [for survivors].”

In regards to who is most vulnerable to situations of sexual assault, Skerrit explained that “anyone can be vulnerable.” She continued by saying, “Sexual assault is about power, not vulnerability. [Regardless of the victim’s] racial group, minority, gender, religion, [or] sexuality, the [assaulter] looks for a setting where they can take advantage of another person. Safety is different for everyone. [Some] don’t need people to be there or check in with them. It looks different for [each individual]. If you’ve gone through trauma, you are still valuable,” Skerrit said.

This past Monday, April 30, VIP followed up their Denim Day event with a talk titled “Learn Tips On Healthy Relationships.” The talk was led by Counseling Center therapist Rachel Wu and members of VIP. As a part of the talk, students wrote a quick message about what healthy relationships looked like to them. Students defined healthy relationships as comforting, positive, confident, and in support of self-love, and unhealthy relationships as involving  toxic and controlling behaviors and gaslighting.

If you have any questions about either of these events or are interested in joining Violence Intervention Program (VIP) for their next event, you can contact Siobhan Skerritt at, sskerrit@whittier.edu and Eryn Wells at, ewells@poets.whittier.edu. Make sure to follow VIP’s Instagram and Twitter pages @WC_VIP_Club for future updates.