At the Denim Day event on April 26, students and members of the Virginia Tech community came together to raise awareness around sexual violence on campus.

An international event focused on sexual violence prevention and education, Denim Day was recognized at Virginia Tech through student voices, in partnership with Hokie Wellness, the Women’s Center at Virginia Tech, and other groups.

“I hope that every year more and more people get involved with Denim Day, especially because April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It is a great day where everyone can come together and talk about those things we don’t talk about very often: spreading awareness, the misconceptions, understanding how prevalent it is, and how to support survivors. Those conversations need to be more commonly talked about and easier to discuss. Once we can finally sit down and have a conversation about preventing sexual violence is when we will actually see change,” said senior Gina Beller, a gender violence intern at the Women’s Center.

Both the university and its students, including the Sexual Violence Culture and Climate (SVCC) work group, are working hard to change the conversation when it comes to sexual violence. There were many volunteers at the Denim Day booths to talk with students, including volunteers from the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad.

Ana Montoya, a senior and member of the rescue squad, participated in the conversation to let students know that there are resources available. The rescue squad is often the first point of contact for victims on campus. “We are all working together to help victims go through a difficult process,” said Montoya.

Denim Day became an international event in 1999 after the Italian Supreme Court overruled a rape conviction based on the argument that the victim’s denim jeans were too tight for the defendant to remove alone, therefore, inferring consent was present. After the ruling, many protested the judge’s decision by wearing denim.

“This is the first across-campus collaboration for Denim Day. Last year, the Corps of Cadets had a student-led observance of Denim Day where all of the cadets wore denim instead of their uniforms for the day. We felt inspired from the previous year to help elevate the observance of Denim Day to our whole VT community. We wanted to bring the entire campus community into these important conversations around the misconceptions of sexual violence and consent as well as showing support for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence," said Chelsea Cleary, sexual violence prevention specialist at Hokie Wellness, and co-chair of the SVCC’s subcommittee on prevention campaigns.

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President Tim Sands created the SVCC in fall 2021 and charged it with advancing efforts to move Virginia Tech’s culture toward one that protects against sexual violence. The work group includes professional faculty, academic faculty, and undergraduate and graduate student representatives.

“We saw this as a great opportunity to connect the SVCC to the student body and those students who are raising their voices to help,” said Cleary of Denim Day.

The SVCC has continued its work during the 2022-23 academic year, building on its goals.

Since its inception in 2021, some of SVCC’s key activities  include:

  • Employees and student leaders within the Residential Well-being program received significant training focused on sexual assault prevention and addressing culture within in the residence halls.
  • Creating a full-time position dedicated to sexual violence prevention.
  • Improved communications about Title IX resources.
  • Launching the Safe at VT website, which provides information for students and survivors, and building the foundation for a university-wide prevention campaign.
  • Increasing transparency in how the university responds to sexual violence.
  • Hosting the first SVCC Summit, featuring Jennifer Hirsch and Shamus Kahn, authors of the book “Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus.”

Find additional information about the Sexual Violence Culture and Climate Work Group, including ways for students to get involved.

Written by Caroline Reed, a junior and an intern for Virginia Tech Communications and Marketing


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