- CAMPUS LIFE
Every April, Peace Over Violence sponsors Denim Day to raise awareness about rape and sexual assault.
This isn’t my first year to write about Denim Day. I look forward to the year when rape is no longer an issue in our culture and we don’t need events like Denim Day anymore.
Denim Day is back! On April 23rd, wear denim to show your support for survivors of rape and sexual assault.
Denim Day is an annual event by the charity Peace Over Violence, which promotes consent awareness and raises funds for resources to assist rape survivors. All across the country, organizations and individuals are hosting events and campaigns to educate people about the myths and misconceptions surrounding rape.
I relate the story of how Denim Day began every year, but that’s because it bears repeating. In the 1990s, an 18-year-old girl in Italy was raped by her driving instructor, an adult she should have been able to trust. Even though he threatened to kill her if she told anyone, she bravely sought help from her parents. In an all-too-rare show of support, they helped her press charges, and in an even-rarer show of justice, the rapist was convicted and sentenced to jail.
However, he appealed his case all the way to the Italian Supreme Court, who overturned his sentence and let him go free. Their justification: because the victim was wearing tight jeans, they figured she had to help him take them off, so the sex must have been consensual.
The young woman’s jeans have become a symbol of the myths surrounding rape. There’s this notion that the girl should have fought harder, that her clothes had anything to do with what happened, that all rapes happen the same and this one must not be a “real rape” because it doesn’t look like the narrative we’ve all been sold. All these notions prevent us from addressing the realities of rape and tackling the problem effectively and compassionately.
It’s ridiculous that we have to keep stating how big that problem is, but here we go. Nationwide, one in ten women have been raped by a boyfriend or husband, and 82 percent of rapes committed by a partner are never reported. One in six American women have experience rape or attempted rape, and that percentage climbs as high as 34.1 percent for American Indian woman. One in six men had abusive sexual experiences before the age of 18. Out of every 100 rapes, 40 are reported to police, ten lead to an arrest, four ever result in conviction, and only three rapists out of 100 will ever spend a single day in prison.
Moreover, this problem is very real and alive here in Austin. Studies show that two people report being raped or sexually assaulted in Austin every day. 782 rapes were reported in Travis County in 2012, and 12.7 percent of reported victims were men. In Texas, the most common place for rape to happen isn’t a dark alley or a bar (the places we tell women to avoid, while we wag our fingers), but a residence.
That last fact is a death blow to the image we keep promoting of rape: the stranger in the ski mask jumping out from the bushes. The fact of the matter is, 73 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. More than 50 percent of rapes happen close to or inside the victim’s home. Rape is not confined to the dead of night: only 43 percent happen between 6:00 pm and midnight, while 33 percent fall between 6:00 am and 6:00 pm.
Running through these statistics, I see some recurring myths about rape being completely debunked. Rape is not something that happens to women who are “asking for it,” or people who are weak, or people who invite negative attention to themselves. Women and men from all walks of life must confront this issue. And rapists are not sick, twisted monsters who look nothing like the people we encounter every day. Rapists can look and act like ordinary people, even the people we date and marry.
The solution to our society’s problem of rape is not to click our tongues at women who go outside after dark or dare to be alone with me. The solution is to educate people (as in, the ordinary-looking people who may turn out to be capable of rape) about the value and definition of consent. The solution is to teach everyone about healthy boundaries, respect for their fellow people, and basic human decency.
Follow Denim Day on Facebook for updates and access to important resources. If you or someone you love needs help, Peace Over Violence offers emergency services 24/7. And wear jeans on April 23rd to show that you stand against rape.