Binghamton University students and faculty donned their denim on Thursday as part of a larger, national day of action to increase sexual assault and violence awareness.
Peace Over Violence, a volunteer-based feminist organization, created “Denim Day” in 1999 as a rape prevention education campaign to coincide with Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.
They chose denim to protest the decision of an Italian court case in which a man successfully appealed his rape conviction by arguing the victim’s jeans were too tight, according to the organization’s website.
The website says that the perpetrator argued that “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.”
“Denim Day” at Binghamton was cosponsored by Real Education About College Health (REACH) and Voices Against Violence.
Students who participated decorated their jeans with powerful messages like “It’s Not Your Fault,” “Just Say No” and “There is No Excuse.”
Pamphlets were distributed containing statistics on sexual assaults on college campuses nationwide; information for women to use to help prevent themselves from becoming victims; as well as resources for victims seeking help.
A clothesline was hung along the pathway from Glen G. Bartle Library to the University Union as part of The Clothesline Project, a non-governmental organization created in 1990 to bring awareness to the issue of violence against women. The shirts strung upon it were decorated with messages to commemorate past victims of sexual assault.
Melissa Luong, a sophomore double-majoring in biology and English, said that she believes sexual assault is “hugely overlooked” at BU.
“One in four women will experience sexual assault by the time they graduate,” Luong said. “It’s something that lots of people feel they need to hide, and I think this project itself is important because it supports the survivors and says, ‘It’s gonna be ok.’ And I think that’s really important.”
Jessica Krohn, Binghamton University’s interpersonal violence prevention coordinator, weighed in with her feelings about Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“It’s important that we teach each other that everybody deserves respect, and everybody has the right to decide what they want to do with their body, and nobody has the right to do anything to their body without their permission,” Krohn said.
Officer Bonnie Hanna of Binghamton’s New York State University Police said that UPD provides programming to prevent sexual assault on campus, including self-defense classes for women and assisting with Safe Ride and Walking Escorts.
“We discuss alcohol and drinking habits, because they have a severe impact on sexual activity, a negative impact at times,” Hanna said. “We discuss ways of staying safe: going out with your friends, making sure you come home with your friends, knowing who your friends are. Students also come to us [to] report any type of sexual assault.”
Hanna encouraged students to speak up without the fear of being judged by officers.
“What makes the problem bigger is that students are afraid to come forward,” Hanna said. “One thing we need to make clear to our students, that just because you did go drinking, or had been in a relationship with someone, that’s not an excuse to have something bad happen to you. No one deserves to be harmed.”