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ASU organizations wear denim to stand up against victim-blaming

Denim Day supports survivors as a part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Students at ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus participate in Denim Day activities on Wednesday, April 26, 2017.

Students at ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus participate in Denim Day activities on Wednesday, April 26, 2017.

ASU participated in an internationally recognized day of support for sexual assault survivors by wearing jeans on Wednesday.

ASU Denim Day aimed to silence victim-blaming and bring awareness to the various resources and assistance available to students on campus who have experienced sexual violence.

Showing support through denim originated in the 1990s, after an Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction because they thought the 18-year-old girl’s jeans were too tight for the perpetrator to have taken them off without her help, implying her consent. Outraged by this, the women of the Italian Parliament protested and showed their support the next day by wearing tight jeans to work.

This symbol of protest spread worldwide and was highlighted today on the ASU campus through the efforts of several organizations and the ASU Police Department.

Lynn Spillers, the victim advocate for ASU police, said the event highlights the problem surrounding victim-blaming statements and reiterates the fact that it is not the victim’s fault.

“It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, if you were out drinking, if you went on a date with someone — none of that is ever a reason or excuse for a sexual assault to happen, and it doesn’t imply consent,” she said. “That kind of behavior is never okay and that person should be held accountable.”

Spillers said starting a conversation about sexual assault on campus can contribute to stopping these incidents from happening.

“By bringing that awareness and educating people, you can stop some of the things that happen in our society — like around rape culture — where people tend to be more victim-blaming," she said.

Spillers said the department wants to fight the negative connotations surrounding filing a report or finding support. 

“It shows that we’re fighting those stereotypes and those myths to say that might be happening, but we want to stop it," she said.

Spillers also said she hopes students feel comfortable utilizing the support system and services in place for them.

“I hope they would see that as us being more victim-centered and having that trauma-informed approach,” she said. “My hopes would be that they see that support victims of sexual assault and that they feel if they do come forward, they are going to be supported and treated with respect and dignity.”

Outside of Denim Day, Spillers said she is always willing to speak with a student about sexual assault.

“I am a confidential resource,” she said. “Students can report things to me. They can talk about a sexual assault, and I don’t have to report it to the school or police department, so I can help them with their options.”

Kat Hofland, a senior public service and public policy major, works with Sun Devil Movement for Violence Protection who contributed to hosting Denim Day. She said the event is important because it affects students on all campuses.

“It’s how we can help to support survivors of sexual violence and how we can work to prevent violence as a community,” she said. “This is our last main event and another way to show students that there are other students who care.”

Hofland said Sun Devil Movement for Violence Protection will be handing out stickers and fanny packs that students can wear for the cause.

“One (sticker) says ‘I protest sexual violence,’ one says ‘You are not alone,’ one says ‘I believe you’ and one says ‘It wasn’t your fault,’” she said. “It seems like students have appreciated the visibility of what we’re doing and have enjoyed the event that they’ve attended.”

Jessica Woods, a junior studying pre-med, is a peer educator for sexual violence prevention on the Downtown Phoenix campus and a part of Sun Devil Support Network.

Woods promoted denim-wearing as solidarity for survivors outside of the Cronkite building, and she said some students have never had the full exposure to sexual assault education.

“If you make jokes or something like that, maybe you don’t realize that what you’re saying may be hurtful,” she said. “I think people dissociate themselves with it, so we really want people to understand when they see something, to call it out.”

She also said sexual assault is a problem that affects everybody on campus.

“It’s a public health thing,” she said. “It’s not just about an individual, and it’s all of our responsibility.”

Outside of Denim Day, Woods said she thinks the University should make sexual assault education required for every student going through schooling.

“I know there’s an online training, but what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to get ASU to push is all freshman having to sit through a mandatory class about sexual assault prevention and response,” she said. “I think it’s important for everyone to know how to get help.” 

Reach the reporter at or follow @karismasandoval on Twitter.

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