Denim Day: Your jeans support survivors

    Photo courtesy Rise Above Violence

    By Ashley Wilson
    Rise Above Violence

    A year ago, the Denim Day walk was canceled because of everything going on in our country and community — this year, the need for this show of support is more paramount than before. When the stay-at-home orders came, it trapped victims with their assailants. In a time when people were supposed to find refuge and safety at home, victims were left without a lifeline to help and monitored even more than before. Domestic violence and sexual assault numbers went up around the world, including in Pagosa. 

    This year marks the 22nd annual Denim Day campaign. This campaign signifies community standing in solidarity with victims and survivors. As we gather to walk around main street in a simple but profound showing of support, we show victims that we support them and will be their voice. This public display is also the beginning of ending sexual violence. It sounds too simple, but if there are enough people in our community that extend outward pressure against the culture of silence that keeps perpetrators safe, then we begin to shift something. Awareness plus action equals social change.

    Join us on April 28 by wearing jeans on purpose, with purpose. We will meet at the bell tower at the corner of U.S. 160 and Lewis Street at noon to walk around main street. If you cannot join us for the walk, ask your employer if you can participate in Denim Day — you can pay $5 to wear jeans or to support victims in our community if you can already wear jeans. Rise will bring you a Denim Day pin for your support. All proceeds stay in our community to help victims and survivors.

    Photo courtesy Rise Above Violence
    On April 28, Rise Above Violence will host the Denim Day walk downtown. Those unable to join the walk are asked to participate in Denim Day at work, with workers paying $5 to wear jeans to work. Proceeds stay in the community to help victims and survivors.

    With a statistics like one in five women will be raped in their lifetime and that an American is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds, it would stand to reason that most of us know someone who has had this experience. Who will you wear jeans for this year? Will you wear jeans to support survivors, for a friend, for yourself, for all the women who are silent, for all the child victims?

    Denim Day has a history. 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.

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    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. 

    Rise Above Violence would like to join you and the community as being part of this change for Pagosa. Rise 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 is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. It services victims and survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and other violent crimes in Archuleta County. For 24/7 crisis support, please call (970) 264-9075 to talk with an advocate. If you or someone you know needs help dealing with violence, please call.