By Kathleen Lees
Students and administrators at Columbia University are encouraged to wear jeans on Wednesday, April 27, to raise awareness against the misconceptions that surround sexual assault. “Denim Day” is an international event that followed a 1998 Italian Supreme Court decision to overturn a rape conviction because the victim wore tight jeans.
The event is one of several being held at Columbia as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Columbia University has been organizing events around SAAM since 2010, according to the Columbia Health organization Sexual Violence Response (SVR). The month is dedicated to raising awareness and helping teach communities and individuals how to prevent sexual violence.
“When we talk about these things that society expects us to be quiet about, we are going to speak up loudly against them and educate not only ourselves but everyone around us,” says Karina Cruz, assistant director for SVR at CUMC. “I think that’s the importance behind Denim Day.”
On Denim Day, participants are encouraged to wear denim, jeans, or a Denim Day sticker to visibly show their support for survivors of sexual violence. Anyone unable to wear jeans or denim that day may pick up a Denim Day sticker at an information table that will be open between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. in the lobby of Hammer lower level 1 on Monday, April 25. The table also will be open on Denim Day between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Participants are encouraged to post photos of their attire with the hashtag #CUdenimday in support of educating others about sexual assault and supporting survivors in the community.
Earlier this month, a workshop on how systemic sexism can influence sexual violence was led by Kevin Nadal, PhD, associate professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “When the media portray women as sexual objects, some men internalize a sense of superiority over women and feel they can take advantage of them,” Dr. Nadal says.
“This is why many men catcall women who walk down the street, or why men may say that a woman who is raped ‘was asking for it.’”
April SAAM events at Columbia are listed below.