National Denim Day raises awareness of sexual assault
During the month of April, wearing jeans can be more than just a fashion statement. It can be a social statement.
On Wednesday, members of the Haywood County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Task Force and REACH of Haywood encouraged everyone to wear jeans to promote National Denim Day 2014 in an effort to spread awareness about sexual assault and prevention.
Denim Day is one of REACH's annual initiatives, said Buffy Queen, community educator for the nonprofit organization that provides safety for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
With a booth set up on the campus of Haywood Community College Wednesday, Queen and members of the task force handed out information about Denim Day and statistics on rape and sexual assault.
Denim Day was first organized by a group called Peace Over Violence in 1999 in response to a case that occurred in Italy the year before. An 18-year-old girl was kidnapped by her married, 45-year-old driving instructor and raped on an isolated roadway.
After the girl told her parents what happened, the rapist was arrested, prosecuted and found guilty. But after appealing the case, the Italian Supreme Court overturned his guilty verdict.
The Chief Judge argued that "because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape but consensual sex."
The verdict sparked rage within a matter of hours and the women in the Italian Parliament launched an immediate action to protest by wearing jeans to work.
The idea that clothing can be an excuse for rape is outrageous, said Queen.
"It's insane. Of course he was threatening her the whole time. Someone will do whatever they have to do to save their own life," she said.
Queen said statistics show the most common age for rape in women is between 16 and 24 and for males it is 4 years old.
This year's theme for Denim Day was simple — there's no excuse for sexual assault. The task force showed several examples of excuses that are commonly used by abusers.
"She was asking for it," "she was flirting online," "she was drunk and partying," — no matter what the excuse, there is never an invitation to rape, Queen said.
Christine Faulkner, a member of the task force who also works for the 30th Judicial Alliance, said the day is all about letting people know that it's okay to talk about sexual assault.
"It's a very hush-hush topic. Victims often feel ashamed or guilty," she said.
The fact that a high court could find a victim of a violent rape responsible in part for the crime is shocking to Faulkner.
"It's another form of victim blaming," she said.