Illuminate—Portland State’s interpersonal violence advocacy group—hosted a rally in the Park Blocks on April 24 as part of sexual assault awareness month. Take Back the Night: We Are Worthy 2019 and Denim Day are among the events meant to spread awareness of sexual violence and show solidarity for survivors.
Denim jeans—on which participants wrote messages like, “consent is not implied” and “I am more than my body”—hung from clothes lines stretching across the park.
The Sexual Assault Awareness Rally was held following the Denim Day march. As participants walked through the Park Blocks, they chanted: “Stop the violence/no more silence/say it loud, say it clear, sexual violence is not welcome here.”
Participants also chanted, “Claim our bodies/Claim your right/Take a stand/Take back the night!”
Peace Over Violence, a social service agency which seeks to end sexual and domestic violence, has been running Denim Day for the last 20 years. The Denim Day campaign began after the Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction because of the victim’s outfit. The court felt that the victim’s jeans could not have been removed by her rapist without assistance because they were too tight.
The court’s ruling, now known as the “denim defense,” implies a survivor of sexual assault must have consented because of the clothing they were wearing at the time. The day after the ruling, women in the Italian Parliament wore denim in protest.
Women’s Resource Center student intern Alisha Ram, said, “we have more people participating and wearing denim and making these statements that are so crucial to reducing victim blaming, reducing sexual violence that happens so often, and so much of sexual violence happens on our college campuses.”
On why Illuminate and Denim Day supporters use the term “gender violence” as opposed to violence against women, Anastasia Amsden—a peer educator with Illuminate—said “[sexual violence] affects people of all genders. Women are affected a lot, but people of all genders are affected by sexual violence.”
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, one out of every 10 survivors are male.
Similarly, from a 2015 report, 47% of transgender people in the United States were sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime. While the majority of transgender survivors of sexual assault are women, there are survivors of sexual violence and harassment who are not.
The WRC, which has worked with Illuminate and the Queer Resource Center in the past, has sponsored several programs seeking to create a safer and healthier campus throughout Sexual Assault Awareness Month.