Harvard students clad in denim — some from head to toe — gathered throughout the day Wednesday in Science Center Plaza to show their solidarity for people who have experienced sexual assault.
The annual event, celebrated around the world since 1998, was hosted at Harvard by the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and the Consent Advocates and Relationship Educators.
The campaign arose after the Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction in 1998 after it concluded that a woman’s jeans were too tight for the alleged perpetrator to remove without her consent, according to an emailed statement by OSAPR Director Pierre R. Berastaín Ojeda ’10.
“The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim,” Berastaín wrote. “Denim Day is a response to this case and a statement of the international activism that it sparked.”
In the days leading up to the event, Harvard affiliates had the opportunity to sign a solidarity pledge through a Google form circulated over campus email lists. The form prompted students to indicate their affiliation with different student organizations and teams and to write a personal pledge.
Campaign organizers handed out stickers to participants throughout the afternoon, and teams and clubs met up throughout the day to take pictures together in their denim at a booth near the Science Center. Attendees also played games, ate ice cream, and participated in giveaways.
Last year, more than 800 affiliates pledged solidarity and roughly 1,000 people attended the event, according to Berastaín.
CARE Tutor Janani Krishnan-Jha ’20 said she believes it is important to actively support and stand in solidarity with people who have experienced sexual and gender-based violence and harassment.
“I think that is really important that every year we have organizations come forward and voice their support so that moving forward we set a tone and precedent that these kinds of actions are not something that Harvard condones and are actually condemned,” she said.
Larry Dang ’22, who dressed in denim and stopped by the booth Wednesday afternoon, said that the campaign is important for bringing visibility to the cause.
“In so far as it is not meant to forward an agenda but rather to forward a culture and forward a sense of support,” Dang said.
“Once you achieve a critical mass, that begins to turn tides in being able to make people feel comfortable in situations where they need to come forward and express experiences with sexual violence,” Dang added.
While Dang was taking a picture with members of a capella group the Vertiones who were all dressed in denim, Missy Dreier ’19 grabbed a sticker on her way to class.
“I just came to get a sticker because I’ve been wearing all denim and I definitely wanted to make clear that that’s the reason and, like, in support of this cause,” Dreier said.
Hope Y. Kudo ’22 said she appreciated the number of people who came out to support the campaign.
“I think that it is really great that a lot of people came together to, like, support this cause especially cause, like, it’s such a salient thing that’s happening right now,” she said. “I think it’s really important that we bring like awareness to it.”