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Advocates: Wear Denim Tomorrow for a Good Cause

Wednesday is international Denim Day, an observance when everyone is asked to wear jeans to show their support for victims of sexual assault. (jppi/morguefile)
Wednesday is international Denim Day, an observance when everyone is asked to wear jeans to show their support for victims of sexual assault. (jppi/morguefile)
April 26, 2016

BOISE, Idaho - Advocates for victims of sexual assault are calling on people to wear denim tomorrow for international Denim Day.

It began in 1992, when a judge in Italy overturned a rape conviction, saying that because the victim wore tight jeans, she must have helped her attacker remove them, thereby implying consent. Women in Parliament wore jeans in protest the next day, and the movement caught on. The annual act of protest is now held worldwide in April, as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Beatrice Black, executive director of the Women and Children's Alliance in Boise, said her organization helps thousands of victims every year.

"In 2015, there were 4,447 calls for domestic abuse, sexual assault and child abuse," she said. "Of that, 770 calls were specific to lewd conduct, rape and sexual assault - and that is just Ada County."

Nationally, Black said, one in 10 young women reports being the victim of some type of sexual assault before graduating from high school - and a survey in Idaho found that 9 percent of students reported being "forced to have sex" sometime before graduating.

Black said Denim Day rejects the common narrative, in which victims are blamed, and aims to change the conversation.

"Instead of saying, 'No means no,' we've upgraded that in a sense, to say, 'Only yes means yes.' So, you can't imply consent," she said. "You can't imply a 'yes' if somebody is unable to verbalize and wholeheartedly say 'yes.' "

She estimated that only 6 percent of victims actually report their assault, so the incidence rates are presumed to be much higher than the number of reports.

More information is online at wcaboise.org and at denimdayinfo.org. The 24-hour Sexual Assault Hotline is 208-345-7273.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - ID