A decade ago, Italian judges didn't convict a rapist because the victim wore jeans and, they reasoned, the alleged attack could not be a rape—she must have helped the man remove them.
Ever since then, rape crisis centers around the world have pointed to that decision as an example of absurd and dangerous thinking, and they've marked “Denim Day”—when they challenge their communities to wear jeans, and they sponsor a host of prevention activities.
Thursday, the Morris County Sexual Assault Center (MCSAC), together with the members of the Morris Alliance to Prevent Sexual Assault will celebrate New Jersey’s Third Annual Denim Day with a 2-hour demonstration on the Morristown Green from noon to 2 p.m.
The event will be complete with live music, survivors speaking out regarding their stories, a T-shirt display by the students at The College of St. Elizabeth, and an address by Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi.
“We are asking people in Morris County to wear jeans or something denim to work on April 26 and then come join us on the Morristown Green,” said Denise Lang, coordinator of the MCSAC. “This is a tough subject and most people shy away, but that’s exactly why we need to bring it out into the open. Until sexual assault survivors are encouraged to speak out as the victims of crime that they are, we—as a society—collude in letting rapists and child molesters go free. We’d like to see that change in Morris County.”
The two-hour event will include a table where the public can decorate jeans with messages of advocacy or support and information tables sponsored by MAPSA agency members, including the Jersey Battered Women’s Service, the Mental Health Association, the Office on Hispanic Affairs, the Family Health Center, Fairleigh Dickinson University, College of St. Elizabeth, and Drew University.
Live music will be provided by Alan Grant and Primitive Soul.
In the event of rain, Denim Day will move indoors to the Church of the Redeemer, 36 South St.
Two teens from Morris Knolls High School won the design contest for this year’s Denim Day Logo. They are Kim Felix and Diana Mikula.
Representatives from both Fairleigh Dickinson University and Morris Knolls High School signed a statement of solidarity and support in standing against sexual violence. They include the dean of students, Dr. Brian Mauro; the associate dean, Jas Verem; the dean of student Life at FDU, Sarah Azavedo; and Jennifer Neinstadt, health teacher from Morris Knolls High School.
"The reality is the numbers of assaults and the violence involved are on the rise and the ages of the victims are getting younger," Lang said. "Chances are, someone you know and care about is likely to be assaulted and they need to know they can come to us for help."
According to the Bureau of Justice statistics:
- Every two minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted.
- Females between the ages of 16 and 24 are four times more likely to be victims of a sexual assault than any other age group.
- Persons under 18 years of age account for 67 percent of all sexual assault victimizations reported to law enforcement agencies. Children under 12 years old account for 34 percent of those cases and children under six years account for 14 percent of those cases.
- Law enforcement arrests for Internet sex crimes against minors are on the rise.
- And 15,000 to 19,000 people with developmental disabilities are raped each year in North America.
“The center is working hard to combat the myths, the misinformation and sexually violent games available to today’s adolescents with concrete information Morris County residents can use to protect themselves,” Lang said.
Founded in 2001, and hosted by Atlantic Health, the MCSAC works to empower adolescents, women and men who have been sexually victimized and assist them in making the transition from “victim” to “survivor.”
It does this through individual and group counseling, community and corporate education programs, medical and legal advocacy, the Sexual Assault Response Team which operates 24/7, the Sexual Assault Hotline, professional trainings, and newsletters designed for both teens and college students.
Anyone wishing to make a donation, volunteer, or obtain more information can do so by calling the MCSAC at (973) 971-4754.