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Sharing misconceptions of sexual violence ahead of International Denim Day

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Category: campus experience Video duration: Sharing misconceptions of sexual violence ahead of International Denim Day
Content warning: mention of sexual violence. Hear from Paige Bik, Associate Director of Prevention at the Women's Center at Virginia Tech, Chelsea Cleary, Sexual Violence Prevention Specialist with Hokie Wellness, and students across campus as they debunk common misconceptions surrounding sexual violence and share what consent means in advance of Denim Day on April 26. Denim Day is an international effort to spread awareness of sexual violence prevention. The Sexual Violence Culture and Climate Work Group (SVCC) was established by President Tim Sands to advance the university’s commitment to end sexual violence and enhance preventative programming at Virginia Tech. For information about resources available for survivors, please visit

The history of Denim Day started in the 1990s with a court case in Italy. The judge overruled a sexual assault case based on the fact that the victim was wearing tight jeans. The next day people were outraged by the ruling and wore denim in protest. This quickly became an international campaign, to debunk myths of sexual violence and brings solidarity to survivors. We don't talk about the misconceptions surrounding sexual violence enough. It's seen as taboo, difficult to discuss, and oftentimes a topic that should just be avoided. The biggest misconception with sexual violence is that either the victim is the reason or incited their sexual assault, whereas the assailant is actually the reason for sexual violence. A common misconception is that sexual assault only happens in dark alleyways or isolated areas. It's important to recognize that sexual assaults mostly happen in places ordinarily thought to be safe. Sexual violence isn't just a women's issue. It affects everyone and we should try to tackle it together as one. A common misconception about sexual violence is that it's the victims fault. Everyone has the right to their own bodies and the choices they make with it. In regards to sexual violence on college campuses, statistics show that 85 to 90% of survivors have previously known or have already met their abusers. Sexual activity is not consensual if a party is incapacitated, coerced, threatened, or forced to engage. Just because someone didn't say "no" does not mean that they're giving consent. This misconception often can make the victims feel guilty for being sexually assaulted. Many people believe that most sexual harassment accusations are false, but in reality, sexual violence is common and happens all too often. To make a change, we must hold each other accountable and start the conversation about sexual violence prevention and what is and isn't consent. Consent is not a box to be checked to engage in sex, but rather a cycle of ask, listen, and respect to be continued throughout intimacy. Consent has nothing to do with what they're wearing or the environment that they are in. Consent is a verbal mutual agreement that is agreed upon unanimously based on bodily autonomy and individual liberty of both parties. Consent is about communication and continually checking in on your partner. It's good to practice affirmative consent, where all parties have expressed agreement in moving forward with their intimacy. So the SVCC was established in order to help bring together community members to have hard conversations and to think about solutions around changing our culture where violence is less likely to take place. In particular, sexual violence. It is an opportunity for us as a community, not just as administrators or professional staff, but also as students, as members of this community to be able to have really important conversations about looking at misconceptions that surround sexual violence and consent. And having opportunities to prioritize our skills around building prevention culture, around elevating consent culture, and also around helping each other and encouraging each other with building our intervention skills as well. Because together, we all have the ability to create a safer VT. On April 26th, we ask the Virginia Tech community to wear denim to support survivors and debunk misconceptions around sexual violence.