Student organization campaigns against sexual violence with Denim Day

Madelyn Reiter

Student organization Not On My Campus will bring Denim Day to UT on April 25 in an effort to raise awareness about sexual assault and the effects of victim blaming.

In 1992, a driving instructor in Italy was convicted of raping an 18-year-old student in a secluded alleyway. However, his conviction was later overturned in 1998 when the Italian Supreme Court ruled that because the victim wore tight jeans it must have been consensual sex.

“Basically, it was blaming what she was wearing because this man wouldn’t have been able to remove (the jeans) himself,” said Maddi Weinstein, NOMC director of outreach. “So they inferred that she had helped, in which case it would be consensual.”

The court’s appeal initiated an international movement to spread awareness on sexual assault and victim blaming, said Kyle Zagon, NOMC head of interfraternity council. Organizations on college campuses across the country, such as the University of California system and Harvard University, have encouraged students to wear denim on the anniversary of the ruling.

For the first time ever, NOMC will bring the event to UT, calling attention to the issue on campus. Already, 200 students have shown interest, said Rhea Shahane, NOMC director of administration.

“It’s never the survivor’s fault,” said Shahane, a Plan II and history and government junior. “We found a statistic on our April boards that showed 1 in 3 people blame survivors for their assault if they were flirting with their perpetrator beforehand.”

Victim blaming can range anywhere from asking why the survivor wore such revealing clothing to why he or she drank so much, Weinstein said.

“Lots of people don’t come forward because they expect this negative response,” said Weinstein, international relations and global studies junior. “There was a survey taken at UT a couple of years ago and over 60 percent of people have never either reported or confided in someone about their assault until this anonymous survey.”

In addition to urging students and staff to wear denim, NOMC will also host a forum to discuss the presence and impacts of victim blaming in the West Mall from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

“This is a really important year considering the #MeToo movement and what occurred on campus, like some of the vitriol around certain student government campaigns and certain professors,” government sophomore Zagon said. “I think it’s important how we frame this topic and think about it in ways that we can improve our school and society as a whole.”