By Ashley Wilson
Special to The PREVIEW
On April 25, you will notice businesses around Pagosa Springs participating in Denim Day, which means employees pay $5 (all proceeds go to support victims in Pagosa Springs) and get to wear jeans to work.
This is all in support of community education around sexual violence. Sexual violence is an underreported crime due to the stigma victims often experience. The most important thing you can do if someone discloses is to believe them. Too often, victims are asked what they did. When, in reality, there is no excuse for abuse and rape.
Denim Day this year is on April 25. Rise Above Violence is hosting a walk around main street to show support for victims and survivors of sexual violence. Please join us at noon at the bell tower (Lewis and U.S. 160) to share who you wear jeans for.
For the past 19 years, the Denim Day campaign has been held on a Wednesday in April in honor of Sexual Violence Awareness Month. The campaign was originally triggered by a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans, thereby implying consent. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim.
The Denim Day campaign was developed by Peace Over Violence in response to this case and the activism surrounding it. Since then, wearing jeans on Denim Day has become a symbol of protest against erroneous and destructive attitudes about sexual assault.
In this rape prevention education campaign, we ask community members, elected officials, businesses and students to make a social statement with their fashion by wearing jeans on this day as a visible means of protest against the misconceptions that surround sexual assault. This year’s Denim Day is April 25. See http://denimdayinfo.org/about/ for more information.
In light of Denim Day and what it stands for, it can seem overwhelming that one in three women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime or that one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. See https://www.nsvrc.org/statistics.
But, the good news is that prevention is possible and it’s happening. Individuals, communities and the private sector are already successfully combating the risk of sexual violence through conversations, programs, policies and research-based tools that promote safety, respect, and equality.
By promoting safe behaviors, thoughtful policies and healthy relationships, we can create safe and equitable communities where every person is treated with respect. We are in a watershed moment.
With the country focused on this very important issue, we have an unprecedented opportunity to improve understanding and change behaviors. The time to rally communities and the broader public is now.
Rise Above Violence would like to join you and the community as being part of this change for Pagosa Springs. Rise Above Violence youth prevention programs focus on respect, healthy relationships and understanding consent. These are important conversations to have with the young people in our community — really with all people in our community — so that we can change the conversation. Rise would love to focus less on crisis response and more on prevention and promotion of healthy relationship values. Raise your voice in our community around these issues. Silence is what perpetuates the problem.
Rise Above Violence is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that services victims and survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and other violent crimes in Archuleta County. For 24/7 crisis support, please call 264-9075 to talk with an advocate. If you or someone you know needs help dealing with violence, please call.
By Ashley Wilson