April is National Sexual Violence awareness month. More than ever these past couple of months I have paid very close attention to cases about violence against women. Each year I participate in Denim Day to bring awareness to this important issue and support victims of sexual violence. It’s horrifying to think that even in 2015 we need to stand up and bring attention to these issues. Do you agree?
Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence Incidents
Whether you are wearing a short skirt or tight blouse, it doesn’t make a difference because sexual violence is about power. It’s a myth that women who dress in revealing clothing are asking for it. It has nothing to do with dressing provocatively.
In 2015 I would like to bring more attention to a discussion on the way we dress and the myth that the attire women wear attracts sexual violence. With the popularity of cosplay, it’s important to remember that women can wear whatever they want with the expectation that they will not receive unwanted attention or advances.
In 2014 and 2015 we followed the story of Emma Sulkowicz, Columbia University student who carries her mattress on campus as a symbol of her burden as a victim of sexual assault after the university cleared Nungesser, the man she accused of raping her of wrongdoing in the 2012 incident. Emma Sulkowicz’s initiated her protests to show how flawed the university system is when it comes to addressing sexual misconduct. Two other students also filed sexual misconduct reports against Paul Nungesser as well. However, Columbia University sided with Paul Nungesser on the first report and terminated the investigation on the second report after Nungesser appealed the finding for the incident and the victim withdrew the claim. Paul Nungesser, the Columbia University student accused of raping Emma Sulkowiz denies the allegations. Nungesser filed a lawsuit against Columbia university citing sexual discrimination for allowing Sulkowicz to obtain college credit for a thesis project, the Mattress Performance.
Emma Sulkowicz activism has placed a spotlight on sexual misconduct at universities, modified the way Columbia University deals with student sexual misconduct reporting and has initiated nationwide discussions of university rape culture. Her endurance performance art piece uses the elements of protest and provides a creative way for victims of sexual misconduct to heal and people who are not aware of sexual misconduct to learn through interacting with Emma’s story.
In February 2012 we were reminded just how precious life is as Josh Powell took his life and the life of his two children after the police were drawing closer to resolving the case of his missing wife, Susan Powell.
In March 2012, we watched a program on ABC about Crystal Harris, a San Diego mom who was raped by her husband only to find out that she had to pay her husband spousal support. I felt her pain. How demoralizing to have to pay your abuser spousal support. It’s like being a victim twice. The order for the victim to pay spousal support to her attacker was challenged. She eventually won the case and received custody of her children from their imprisoned dad.
In 2012, the White House has also been debating the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Under the VAWA domestic violence against women has fallen 60%. However, Congress is currently debating the expanded provisions which include domestic violence protection for same sex couples and illegal immigrants.
Denim Day 2015
On Wednesday, April 29, 2015 many people will join forces to bring national awareness to sexual assault and rape. Let’s wear denim as a visable social statement to raise public awareness about sexual assault and rape and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. Let’s do it for Susan, let’s do it for Crystal or someone you know.
Denim Day was started in Italy in 1992 after an 18-year-old girl was forcefully raped by her 45-year-old driving instructor. The assailant was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to jail. He appealed the sentence, and the case made its way to the Italian Supreme Court. The Supreme Court released the perpetrator and dismissed all charges. The reasoning behind this was “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 women in the Italian Parliament launched into immediate action within a couple hours, and wore jeans. The California Senate and Assembly did the same. Thus, Denim Day was born.
Let’s make a Social Statement with our fashion statement. Wear jeans on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 and make a statement to STOP THE VIOLENCE!