Students show their support for sexual assault survivors on Denim Day
Students across campus donned denim in support of sexual assault survivors on Wednesday, taking part in Denim Day, a global campaign to support survivors of sexual violence.
On-campus recognition of Denim Day, which falls during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, was organized by the Title IX office of Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Education (SHARE).
Lizzie Dowdle ’22, who works at the SHARE Title IX office, explained in an email that Denim Day was created in 1999 in response to an Italian Supreme Court ruling that overturned a rape conviction on the grounds that a victim must have helped her attacker take off her jeans.
“The next day, the women of the Italian Parliament came to work in jeans in solidarity with the victim,” she wrote. This year, Dowdle and the SHARE office have chosen to adopt a hybrid model for Denim Day, including Instagram highlights and a physical table at White Plaza.
The SHARE Title IX office also hosted other programs throughout the month, Dowdle wrote. On April 17, the SHARE office hosted Take Back the Night, an event “designed to give survivors and allies a chance to share their stories [of sexual violence] with the Stanford community,” Dowdle wrote.
Being in solidarity with survivors was a priority for Yesenia Garcia ’24 and Paloma Ronis ’25, two Denim Day participants.
Garcia said Denim Day provides an opportunity to “come together around the world and show our support in debunking the misconceptions surrounding survivors of sexual assault, educating others, and showing our support for all of these survivors.”
Ronis agreed with Garcia, adding that a “visible indicator of support for survivors of sexual violence” is important.
Garcia and Ronis also discussed legal challenges related to justice for victims of sexual assault.
Ronis said: “[It is] it is all too common for survivors of sexual assault to not obtain justice or suffer other harm from the criminal justice system. Therefore, “community healing and support” spaces are particularly important.
Similarly, Garcia, who hopes to pursue a future in law, expressed concerns “about legislation and government policies that make it difficult to take victims of sexual assault seriously.”
Angelica Perez ’25, another Denim Day attendee, said she hopes the day will promote conversation and knowledge about sexual assault prevention.
“I hope people ask questions like, ‘Why are you wearing denim today? And what does that mean to you?’” Perez explained. [having] these conversations about [sexual assault prevention].”
Perez said she chose to participate in Denim Day because members of her family had survived sexual assaults. Even though the case that prompted the creation of Denim Day took place nearly two decades ago, “rape culture is a big part of our society today when survivors come out and talk about their experiences,” Perez said.
“For me, wearing runways in denim…the clothes shouldn’t be an excuse to justify someone’s sexual violence,” she said.
Like Perez, Ronis wants to combat the “culture of apathy” surrounding sexual violence. She hopes Denim Day can be an opportunity for survivors to “visualize the solidarity other students have with them on this issue”.
For other students, Ronis thinks the day highlights “how easy it is to show support and offer a helping hand to survivors and also get them to start thinking about ways to get involved. more in the fight against sexual violence”.