By Cheryl Bowdridge
Special to The PREVIEW
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Rise Above Violence (formerly the Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program) is sponsoring an awareness event to bring the community together around this important issue: Denim Day is Wednesday, April 26, and the event will be at noon at the Bell Tower.
In 1997 in Rome, Italy, an 18-year-old girl was raped by her 45-year-old driving instructor, who was later convicted and sentenced to jail. The perpetrator appealed the sentence and his case went to the Italian supreme court, where the case was overturned.
The head judge released a statement arguing that because the victim wore tight jeans, he assumed that she must have helped her perpetrator remove her jeans and, therefore, consented. Enraged by the verdict, the women in the Italian Parliament launched into immediate action and protested by wearing jeans on the steps of the Italian Parliament building.
This was the beginning of what has become a worldwide event and movement to wear jeans as a visible means of protest against misconceptions that surround sexual assault.
Locally, participants will gather together at noon on Wednesday, April 26, at the Bell Tower on Lewis Street. Community members are invited to wear denim and “Walk a Mile in Their Jeans” in support for survivors of sexual violence.
While not really a mile, it’s sure to be an experience where the community can show their support for this important cause.
We are also inviting employers to allow their employees to pay $5 to wear denim to work on April 26 and donate the proceeds to Rise Above Violence. This communitywide support of wearing denim is one more way we can show victims and survivors of sexual assault that we stand beside them and will not tolerate this violence in our community.
One in five women will be a victim of sexual assault between the ages of 18-24; every two minutes, another sexual assault takes place in America. Men are also victims. With these kinds of statistics, it is important that we rally together and show support and become more aware of the effects that sexual assault has on our community.
Even if you cannot attend the gathering, be sure and wear denim on Wednesday, April 26, to show your support and to show that there is no excuse for sexual assault.
This April, make the commitment to be part of the solution and help end sexual assault and sexual abuse in our community.
Rise Above Violence is a nonprofit organization that promotes the belief that all people have the right to live free from violence. Rise provides 24-hour support and advocacy services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of violence, serving over 400 victims each year.
Rise also works to eliminate violence through education for youth and our community. All programs and services are free and confidential including emergency prevention education and empowerment programs.
Visit www.riseaboveviolence.org for more information or call 264-9075 to talk to an advocate today. Or, if you want to be part of the team to help those locally, volunteers for advocacy are always needed and welcomed.