Clad in denim, students and staff took a stand against sexual assault on campus Wednesday — part of an annual event in which demonstrators make a statement against sexual violence by donning the material.
For Denim Day, staff members from UC Berkeley’s Gender Equity Resource Center and Leadership, Engagement, Advising, and Development Center tabled near Sather Gate. As students passed by, staff provided pamphlets, buttons reading “Ask Me Why I’m Wearing Denim” and general information regarding Denim Day and Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.
The Denim Day campaign was created after the Italian Supreme Court made a ruling in 1999 that overturned a rape conviction. The justices argued that, because the victim was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped take off her pants and thus consented to sex. The following day, female members in the Italian Parliament wore jeans to protest the decision.
After widespread outrage, the nonprofit Peace Over Violence started the Denim Day campaign, which for the past 15 years has urged communities across the United States to protest erroneous ideas surrounding sexual assault.
“We’re trying to get the word out on Denim Day and make sure people know what it symbolizes,” said Christine Ambrosio, a director at the campus Gender Equity Resource Center, or GenEq, the organization sponsoring the event. “It’s a campaign to have activism against destructive attitudes around sexual assault and sex violence.”
UC Berkeley sophomore Meghan Warner wore denim specifically on Wednesday to protest sexual assault. As a member of the ASUC Office of the President’s sexual assault task force and Greeks Against Sexual Assault at UC Berkeley and an intern at GenEq, Warner is active in spreading awareness about sexual violence.
“I’m excited to see more people get more involved; it’s an easy way for people to show they support survivors and are hopefully against rape culture — not just on our campus but across the world,” Warner said. “This is a world thing.”
Last week, GenEq hosted its annual Take Back the Night, an open mic event during which students and community members can share their stories and thoughts around sexual violence.
Also happening in the next month is the End Street Harassment Berkeley Chalk Walk, where students and community members can write messages with chalk on Telegraph Avenue to help end street harassment.
These events come in the midst of an ongoing federal investigation on how the campus treats sexual violence cases, after the filing of a federal complaints by 31 current and former UC Berkeley students.
“The administration is fully supportive of the Denim Day observation,” said campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore. “These activities are important in raising awareness about sexual assault and reminding the campus community of resources that are available, including reporting options, support services and educational programs.”