Denim Day raises awareness for victims of sexual assault

Bradley Hoffman

Denim Day USA is a day to wear jeans as a protest against sexual violence. It was started in 1999 as a result of an overturned conviction in Italy where an appeals court judge ultimately ruled a 16-year-old student had consented to her alleged rapist, her driving instructor, because of her tight jeans.

“We encourage everyone in the UMKC community to wear jeans on April 24 to show solidarity for survivors of sexual violence,” said Kelly Rifenbark, UMKC Violence Prevention Coordinator, who is in charge of this year’s Denim Day event.

Denim Day has been observed worldwide and by UMKC for the past five years.

“I hope students will gain an awareness of their personal misconceptions of why sexual violence occurs and decide to challenge their beliefs,” Rifenbark said.

“The passive educational event allows people to learn about Denim Day in their own way. To me, Denim Day is a great beginner program to get involved in stopping sexual violence.”

On April 24, there will be a clothesline of jeans hung at the Stanley H. Durwood soccer stadium on the fence from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The jeans on display will have been painted by students to display anti-sexual assault messages or imagery.

Cindy Peckham, a senior in criminal justice and sociology, attended the denim decorating party event last Thursday at the Women’s Center to help design this year’s jeans.

“‘No’ does not mean ‘yes,’” she said, referring to her message.

Terry Ross has been with the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault since 1982.

“I had two good friends telling me they needed men to volunteer,” said Ross a UMKC alumnus and volunteer. “I didn’t know a woman at the time who hadn’t been a victim. This is not right. This is not acceptable behavior.”

Ross initially started running a support group for the family members of victims, among other things.

“If there’s something to do with MOSCA, I’ve pretty much done it over 30 years,” he said.

One in 11 men is a victim of sexual assault and Ross offered his support for all affected male victims.

“Rape isn’t always about penetration,” he said. “It’s a power issue. It’s a sexual act used to control the victim. Rape has always been a crime of violence, never a crime of passion.”

Denim Day is part of Sexual Abuse Awareness Month and a series of events being held by the Women’s Center, including Take Back the Night on April 18, which will include free food and a pre-rally on the quad starting at 6:30 p.m., followed by a march to the JC Nichols fountain and a moment of silence for victims.

For more information on April’s events, contact Rifenbark at 816-235-6175 or email her at [email protected]

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