RUPA hosts Denim Day fashion show to combat sexual assault
The Rutgers community celebrates "Denim Day" with its first annual denim-based fashion show, dedicated to preventing sexual violence and showcasing self-expression for victims of sexual abuse.
The inauguration of the worldwide initiative to prevent sexual violence was held at the College Avenue Student Center this past Tuesday night, showcasing strength in a community of sexual abuse advocates looking to further spread the message through fashion and interpersonal expression. Hundreds of students were in attendance.
Rutgers NO MORE and SCREAM Theater were co-sponsors of "Denim Day," and curated the event in collaboration with the Rutgers University Programming Association (RUPA) in order to expand their reach and generate student involvement through different organizations.
Maria Alba, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and SCREAM Theater member, said the international campaign to raise awareness for victims of sexual abuse came to fruition after an Italian supreme court ruled that a victim was not sexually assaulted due to the tightness of her jeans.
An indication that she must have helped remove them was thereby considered non-verbal consent for sexual activities, Alba said. The event's attendees protested this by wearing jeans to court the next day, thus initiating the worldwide "Denim Day."
The event has since been commemorated throughout the Rutgers community for over 10 years, with the addition of this year's “Denim Day Fashion Show” featuring members of the community, Alba said.
While sexual violence is a serious topic here, this event encourages a lighthearted approach to the subject through discussions about fashion, performance and entertainment. As Rutgers so often explores its revolutionary status, this is something that truly embodies that feeling, she said.
SCREAM Theater is a pure educational interactive theater group that educates on interpersonal violence, standing for Students Challenging Realities and Educating Against Myths, Alba said. The group is best known for their summer orientation performances regarding sexual assault prevention in college but also performs at a number of different events throughout the year.
“We are excited for this event in particular because people who don’t usually talk about this stuff can come and digest it. You don’t have to be a sexual violence expert, you don't have to be a student leader in your community. This is accessible to anyone to just walk in and enjoy the show," she said.
Taylor Miller, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and member of Rutgers NO MORE, said the organization is the first and only student-run affiliation with the national NO MORE campaign, looking to combat sexual violence through student conversation.
“We had this awesome opportunity to partner up with SCREAM and RUPA to make this event and allow survivors to represent their stance against this cause and make it an interactive event so students can normalize the concept of sexual assault and not cringe away from it," she said.
The incorporation of faculty and staff into the demonstration further shows the unity across campus and how these issues relate to all people, Miller said. It is not just a women's issue, it affects all lives in some way and requires that people get involved in order to make a change.
In keeping with tradition, the event showcased various acts relating the experiences of sexual abuse victims through poetry, singing and creation. The use of denim clothing was individually tailored to each model as symbolic representations of personal topics regarding sexual abuse.
Sean Brown, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and director of Traditions and Community for RUPA, said the event was immediately approved as a campus-wide initiative to end sexual violence. The organizations involved then came together to develop a script of distinct personalities that represented different student bodies.
The different performances shown are done to show the alternate sides of sexual abuse through different mediums, Brown said. Whether it is spoken word, a musical performance, or even a tasteful scream, "Denim Day" has something for everyone.
“We wanted to make sure that we had a fraternity brother, a sorority sister, we wanted a student athlete, a student involved with orientation, one involved with the student centers or dance marathon. We wanted to show them as student leaders, as anyone on campus, and that’s why we got faculty and staff involved," he said.
Christian Zapata is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.