Colorful fliers on campus bulletin boards signify Denim Day on Wednesday. Although the colors are vibrant and cheerful, the bold text conveys a serious message: Denim Day seeks to bring conversation to sexual assault, in which participants wear denim to showcase their support for assault victims.
In an attempt to spark awareness about assault in the microcosm of USC, the USC branch of Not On My Campus, an organization that aims to engage students in conversations about rape culture and sexual abuse, will host a Denim Day campaign on Wednesday. NOMC president and USC Denim Day coordinator Ellie McDaniel recognizes the struggle the University faces in an attempt to better address sexual assault statistics.
“One major factor in keeping us from ending sexual assault is the party culture on this campus,” McDaniel said. “The party culture creates an ecosystem where the goal for both parties involved is to hook up. How it’s expected to happen is both parties drink alcohol to make it ‘more acceptable.’”
McDaniel said that this culture cultivates the idea of sex as a conquest, creating scenarios where consent is overlooked or misunderstood.
The original Denim Day campaign was founded by the non-profit volunteer organization Peace Over Violence as a response to a controversial Italian Supreme Court ruling in 1999. The ruling dealt with an incident of sexual assault in 1992, in which a Roman driving instructor was accused of raping an 18-year-old female driving student and threatened to kill her if she told anyone about it.
The victim’s parents agreed to assist her in pressing charges, and the man was convicted of his crimes in the district court system. In 1999, however, the Italian Supreme Court overturned the previous ruling, stating that the alleged rape was in fact consensual because the victim was wearing tight jeans and allegedly assisted the attacker in taking them off.
“It is nearly impossible to slip off tight jeans even partly without the active collaboration of the person who is wearing them,” the Court wrote.
The decision sparked instantaneous and passionate reactions across Italy, demanding justice for this gross malfeasance. Members of the Italian Parliament, including Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of Benito Mussolini, displayed their outrage by wearing jeans and protesting inside Parliament. The official Denim Day statement declares, “There is no excuse and never invitation to rape.”
While simply wearing denim on Wednesday will not eradicate sexual assault at USC or anywhere in the world, proponents hope that participation initiates an honest and productive dialogue among students and faculty in the community.