April is sexual assault awareness month, an annual campaign to raise awareness about sexual assault and to educate the public on sexual violence.
Millions of people across the world come together on a Wednesday in April to recognize Peace Over Violence’s 20th Annual Denim Day, as a way to support survivors while also educating others about all forms of sexual violence, according to their website.
This year’s campaign date is April 24, and the UCF community has been encouraged to participate.
“Lets be clear,” UCF Police Chief Carl Metzger said in a video posted by UCF Today. “Sexual assault and violence will not be tolerated here at UCF.”
The Denim Day campaign began after a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction because the justices believed that the victim’s tight jeans implied consent to take them off. The non-profit organization Peace Over Violence developed the campaign in response to the case and the activism surrounding it, according to their website.
Zimira Harrison, junior health sciences major, had not heard of denim day but said she was proud of her school for supporting it.
“I think it’s really cool that UCF is doing this because women still experience the same thing today,” Harrison said. “Women are still being told what they should wear.”
UCF’s Title IX coordinator, Matt Ricke, said the Office of Institutional Equity received 50 reports of sexual assault from July to December 2017, and 63 sexual assault reports from January to June 2018, according to a UCF press release. In addition to reports of other forms of conduct, such as relationship violence and stalking, which are not included in these numbers.
UCF’s Title IX deputy coordinator and training specialist Abigail Malick, told UCF Today that she led 72 trainings in 2018 for faculty, staff, student employees and campus departments and is working on opening a more in-depth online training module. She said this training is critical because someone’s reaction is a huge factor in what happens next for a victim, and explains that this is part of the reason why UCF’s Let’s Be Clear, in conjunction with UCF Victim Services, expanded to include a text-message service for their 24/7 hotline as a way to be more accessible to students.
Wearing jeans on Denim day has become a symbol of protest against destructive attitudes toward sexual harassment, abuse, assault and rape. Nicole Walters, a sophomore sports and exercise science major, had a similar consensus.
“I think it’s really sad and scary,” Walters said. “I didn’t know about it, but it’s good that UCF is promoting things like this.”
Information and resources on sexual assault, harassment, relationship violence and stalking can be found on UCF’s Let’s Be Clear website.