Pictured is Adyson Edwards, Junior Early Childhood Education program (Lincolnview) at Vantage, holding jeans she and others worked on for Denim Day in conjunction with the YWCA. (Photo submitted)
Pictured is Adyson Edwards, Junior Early Childhood Education program (Lincolnview) at Vantage, holding jeans she and others worked on for Denim Day in conjunction with the YWCA. (Photo submitted)

VAN WERT – April 28, 2021, marked Denim Day, a day aimed at calling attention to sexual assault and supporting survivors. Locally, students from Crestview, Lincolnview, Van Wert, and Vantage worked with the YWCA to stand against sexual assault, bring awareness to the issue, and promote consent.

Denim Day was created after a young woman in Italy came forward about her sexual assault in 1992. The Italian Supreme Court ruled that because the woman’s jeans were so tight, she must have willingly participated in the rape––sparking outrage. Since then, the ruling has been overturned, but Denim Day calls attention to the stigmas survivors face when coming forward with their stories.

To help bring awareness to the issue locally, students painted jeans. Students wrote things like “No means no,” “My body, my rules,” “Just because my jeans are tight doesn’t mean it’s right,” and more.

“We put a quote about how jeans do not give consent to sex because that was the main court case that goes along with the project, but this issue doesn’t just go with jeans,” said Crestview Senior Kylie Etzler. “We also put a broken heart to show that it is heartbreaking that so many girls in our world have to put up with this issue.”

“My jeans were designed to stress the importance of a female’s voice and the power that it holds,” said Lincolnview sophomore Breck Evans. “When a woman says ‘No’, it means no. And with our voice, we can be the change.”

Several students were inspired to take part in painting jeans because they know victims of sexual assault and wanted to support them and others. Students also wanted to bring awareness to the issue.

"I personally know people that have been sexually assaulted or abused, and I know the struggles that those people face now because of it," said Crestview Senior Sarah Thomas. "I want to help bring awareness to this issue to help protect others, and to support those people that I know that have experienced it themselves."

“This topic is sad, disheartening, and scary; I wanted to raise awareness for this topic," Adyson Edwards, Junior Early Childhood Education at Vantage (Lincolnview) said. "I feel as if society just tries to push this subject under the rug, and it shouldn’t be like that. I feel like if any Woman/Man is/has been sexually assaulted they don’t want to speak up about it because society portrays it as a thing that shouldn’t be talked about. This is why I wanted to push denim day at school so much. I can only imagine how alone you could feel if this has happened to you.”

Student Ambassadors at Vantage collected Denim Day money as a fundraiser to give back to the YWCA Victims Housing department and gave speeches during lunch, encouraging their peers to come together for a unified voice, building on healthy conversations about sexual assault, consent and prevention, said Vantage Community Relations Coordinator Miriam Owens.

Many of the students who participated said they didn’t know about Denim Day prior to the awareness campaign, but all said it was important to continue to educate others on the topic.

“I have learned so much about this but the thing that is the most scary is these statistics,” said Vantage’s Edwards. “One in every five women have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime, just in the United States. One in every 75 men have been sexually assaulted just in the United States, and these are just the cases that have been reported. Nearly 431,840 cases of sexual assault/rape are reported each year. Imagine all of the cases that haven’t been reported. I have learned that we need to spread more awareness about this scary subject, because this act is not okay, and should not be happening.”

"I’m a firm believer that if we erase, ignore, and sugar coat our history, we will never learn from it and only repeat the same mistakes over and over again," said Van Wert Junior Trinity Goins. "As a society, we have to take responsibility for what we have been allowing to happen for years. Denim Day is a perfect way to spread the word that sexual assault will not be tolerated, we will not be silenced, and we will keep fighting for all the men, women, and children that have had to endure these traumatic experiences."

To help promote awareness, the YWCA posted the students’ denim projects on social media and allowed the community to vote for their favorite. Several local businesses also joined in on the project including The Curvy Closet, Cedar Mill Farm, and Statewide Ford Lincoln.