Morristown – A decade ago, Italian judges did not convict a rapist because the victim wore jeans and, they reasoned, her attack was not rape; she must have helped the rapist remove them.
Ever since then, rape crisis centers around the world have recognized both the absurdity and the danger of this type of thinking by marking “Denim Day” with challenging their communities to wear jeans and sponsoring a host of prevention activities.
This year, 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 until 2pm on Wednesday, April 26th complete with live music, survivors speaking out regarding their stories, a tee-shirt display by the students at The College of St. Elizabeth, and an address by Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi and Freeholder Tom Mastrangelo.
“We are asking people in Morris County to wear jeans or something denim to work on April 26th 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,” she said.
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 the popular NJ-based band, Alan Grant and Primitive Soul.
In the event of rain, Denim Day will move indoors to the Church of the Redeemer, 36 South Street.
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. They will be recognized at Denim Day as well.
And this year, 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, and the Dean of Student Life at FDU, Sarah Azavedo, and Jennifer Neinstadt, health teacher from Morris Knolls High School.
Between the music, displays and the speakers, Lang said she hopes to reach those who may have been reluctant to seek help.
“The reality is the numbers of assaults and the violence involved are on the rise and the ages of the victims are getting younger, “ said Lang. “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% of all sexual assault victimizations reported to law enforcement agencies. Children under 12 years old account for 34% of those cases and children under six years account for 14% 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,” said Lang.
According to recent studies by several universities, however, the reality is:
• 46% of 8th and 9th graders think being raped is sometimes the victim’s fault.
• 40% felt wearing sexy clothes or drunkenness by the victim causes or excuses rape.
• 33% felt they would not be arrested if they forced sex on someone.
• 35% of college men who voluntarily participated in psychological research indicated they might commit a rape if they knew they could get away with it.
Founded in 2001, and sponsored 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.