It's Denim Day. I love to wear denim, whether it is throwing on a pair of jeans or a cute jean jacket. However, Denim Day is not a celebration of all things jeans. No, it is a day to wear denim in support of those who have experienced sexual violence. It makes sense that this is a day that falls within Sexual Assault Awareness Month. How does this make an impact? It raises awareness and also shows survivors that they are seen; they are heard; they matter; and we are standing with them.
This day was initiated after the Supreme Court in Italy had overturned the conviction of a 45 year old man who worked as a driving instructor who had been convicted of raping an 18 year old girl. Why did they overturn this conviction? The court had determined that she was wearing jeans that were too tight for the man to have removed them himself and that she must have helped him remove her pants. Therefore, they determined she would have had to have consented. The day after the conviction was overturned, the women who worked in the Italian Parliament all came to work wearing denim jeans to show support for the victim. A campaign was then started in 1999 and has continued since.
Victims of rape are not to blame for the actions of their rapists. Rapists should be held accountable for their actions. This is not only a lack of controlling oneself but also an act of purposefully taking control of someone else and taking something that is not yours to take. Rapists not only take away someone's right to consent, they also take away someone's safety, security, peace, trust, and dignity, amongst many other things.
Rape is not just a lack of control of sexual desire. Rape is a method of control. Rape may be violent as it was in my case, but it also may not include physical violence. Rape can include force, trickery, or coercion. Coercion can include pressure, intimidation, or threats to force someone to do something they do not want to do. Rape occurs when consent is not given.
What is consent? Consent is not finally saying yes because you keep being pressured to do so. Consent is not failing to say "no", maybe due to being unconscious, maybe because of being unable to physically do so, etc. Consent is not failing to fight off the pursuit. Consent is not being too young or too scared to say no. Consent is not assuming consent now because consent was given previously. Consent is not what someone is wearing. Consent is saying yes because you want to participate without any fear of repercussion and without hesitation. I like to explain it like this...if you didn't receive an enthusiastic yes without force, pressure, begging, etc., it is a no. Consent can also be given and then a change of mind occur. If someone changes their mind, it is no longer consensual. They can choose to stop.
Sexual assault does not only happen to females and does not only happen with a man being the perpetrator. I stand with those who have experienced sexual assault, just as I did. I see you; I hear you; and I care.