Community, Features, Impact

BU organizations raise sexual assault awareness with Denim Day display

“You are not alone,” “You are heard” and “You matter.” These are just a few of many quotes left on patches of denim up on display in the George Sherman Union for Denim Day.

Denim Day
A Denim Day display in the George Sherman Union. This is one of three displays across Boston University campus where students can write “empowering messages” on pieces of denim and pin them onto a large posterboard to show solidarity with sexual assault survivors. HUI-EN LIN/DFP STAFF

Boston University’s Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center, the Center for Gender, Sexuality and Activism and student organization It’s On Us BU have joined forces to put on a display in the lead up to Denim Day on April 27.

Three Denim Day displays are scattered throughout campus, one of which stands in the GSU, where students can write “empowering messages” on pieces of denim and pin those messages onto a large poster board, Kaylan Comenole, the director of CGSA and junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said.

“We’re hoping that by the end of the month, [the boards] will be all full and you’ll be able to come and see them and see how all the students at BU are rallying around survivors,” Comenole said.

Denim Day is an international campaign that takes place every year on a Wednesday in April, according to the official Denim Day website. The campaign first started in 1999 after an Italian Supreme court ruling overturned a rape conviction by stating that the victim had to have aided her assailant given the fact that she was wearing tight jeans.

In a show of solidarity, many women in the Italian Parliament arrived to work the next day wearing jeans in response to the “victim blaming and destructive myths that surround sexual violence,” the Denim Day website says.

Since then, Denim Day officials have recorded almost 12 million people participating in the campaign worldwide including, but not limited to, middle, high school and college campuses.

In the GSU, many students such as Mehreen Kamal, a junior at the CAS, were drawn to the large display and wrote messages of their own.

“I think it’s a great initiative,” Kamal said. “We all need little reminders of support and love here and there.”

One of the main challenges that Kristen Schallert, president and co-founder of It’s On Us BU and senior in CAS, faced was making sure that the survivors were kept in mind when creating event ideas for Denim Day.

“We want to make sure that we’re simultaneously raising awareness while not retraumatizing any survivors on campus,” she said.

The displays will remain standing for student involvement throughout campus until April 27.

SARP, CGSA and It’s On Us BU have also organized an event called Cones for Consent on Denim Day. Students wearing denim will get free ice cream from the ice cream truck parked at the BU Beach throughout the day.

Comenole said the purpose of this event is to raise awareness for sexual assault prevention and how to support survivors.

“We’re just trying to use an easy event like this to try and grab people’s attention and get them to learn more about sexual assault prevention, how to support survivors,” Comenole said.

Along with SARP, CGSA and It’s On Us, other student organizations are also raising awareness for Denim Day. Schallert said sororities especially like to ask members of It’s On Us BU to train them during this time of the year, during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“Across the campus, we just are getting a flood of support from everybody,” Schallert said.

Individuals still have an opportunity to get involved with Denim Day. Schallert said It’s On Us BU is currently recruiting for executive board positions and are looking to hear from fellow survivors, allies and “just people who really want to support the group.”

“Our job is to support survivors on campus and direct them towards the resources that they might not hear of every day,” Schallert said.


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