Students dress in denim to protest sexual assault


On April 24, FHSU students dressed in denim jeans, jackets, and shirts for a purpose.

This day marks Denim Day: an international day of protest against sexual assault.

According to Elaian Parkinson, a student coordinator for the Women’s Leadership Project, Denim Day began following a 1998 rape trial in Italy.

In this case, the judge ruled because the victim was wearing tight jeans at the time of the rape, the accused rapist would have needed help removing the jeans and thus had the consent of the victim.

“The next day, all of the women in the Italian Parliament showed up in jeans as a protest,” Parkinson said.

This protest has since grown beyond Italy and has become a fixture in April which is Sexual Assault Awareness month.

“People wear jeans on Denim Day […] as an on-going protest that jeans don’t cause rape, clothing doesn’t cause rape, and victim-blaming tactics are not okay,” she said.

Students at Fort Hays State University have joined with the Women’s Leadership Project to bring Denim Day to the campus.

This year, Parkinson and fellow student coordinator Brooklynn Bracelin were in charge of preparation for the event. This included setting up an informational table in the Memorial Union, posting announcements on social media, and even creating a Snapchat filter.

At the table itself, students could pick up candy and stickers that explain why they were wearing denim as well as take pictures with a denim picture frame.

As fun as stickers and pictures are, the meaning of such an event cannot be overlooked.

For Parkinson and Bracelin, Denim Day is important for the education it provides about sexual assault and for its part in dispelling myths about the topic. Parkinson pointed out that misunderstandings, often about the clothing, leads to victim-blaming.

“I think it’s really important to talk about these different issues,” she said, “and make sure that people are understanding that clothing isn’t consent. The only thing that causes rape is a rapist.”

Students who participated in the protest had similar goals as the student coordinators.

One named Darien mentioned that those around him, from colleagues to students, are affected by sexual assault.

“It needs to be brought to the frontlines,” he said, “so everyone can know that it’s still an issue that affects us today.”

Another student by the name of Jenna Klein also participated because she wants to support the victims she knows.

In fact, for her Denim Day is as much a protest as it is a way to create a support system victims who may be without one.

“So on a day like this,” Klein said, “it could remind them that when they see someone wearing denim, even though they might not know them personally, they might feel some of that support as well.”
For those in need of support, FHSU provides an online list of campus and Hays-area resources and Options provides assistance to those across northwestern Kansas.

Sound Off!