Denim Day USA 2013 and the need for NO MORE excuses!

/ Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 / No Comments »

“I didn’t know it was a rape. I don’t know what rape looks like.”

This is the comment from a 16-year-old high school boy who witnessed the sexual assault of a female student in Steubenville, Ohio when asked why he didn’t do something to stop it.

This comment has not left my mind.  Very discouraging.  After all the “progress” that has been made in working to change the social norms that support violence and the attitudes that allow rape and other sexual violence to persistclearly we have not made enough progress!  What is wrong with this picture that in a suburban high school in Ohio, not only was a young girl repeatedly raped and assaulted, then videotaped, but many students participated and/or witnessed the assault, did nothing, laughed and sent the images virally around the world.

Boys being boys? Bystanders in denial? Witnesses caught like deer in the headlights?  Unconscious accomplices?  Immaturity combined with entitlement? Of course it reminds me of the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State where the assistant coach saw “something” in the locker room between Sandusky and a youth and although disturbed by what he saw, he wasn’t sure and he didn’t know what to do and so did nothing to intervene.

So here we are in April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and also Child Abuse Prevention Month. Wednesday, April 24th is the 14th annual Denim Day in LA & USA.  Denim Day USA is a sexual violence prevention education campaign dedicated to supporting survivors of all ages, genders, races, ethnicities and nationalities, and preventing rape.  Each year we promote wearing jeans on purpose, and participating in educational opportunities to debunk the myths that continue to persist. Clearly, there is so much more education to do. We need more bystander education that aims to engage everyone to become aware and alert and to care about this issue for their own well-being and for the well-being of others.  There is something to say for “doing the right thing” kind of education.  Are there enough courses in schools teaching how important it is to do the right thing and if you are not sure — to find out?

Organizations like Peace Over Violence and 1in6 work on the issue of sexual abuse everyday not just on Denim Day. Every month is sexual abuse awareness and prevention month for the network of agencies that provide intervention services, prevention and policy toward the vision of a culture that doesn’t ignore, allow, excuse or condone sexual violence in any form.

Our efforts must persist but we also have to rethink, reframe, and perhaps reinvent how we do what we do to have greater impact.  We have to find more ways to engage individuals – especially young people, communities, families and all of our institutions in this effort.  We have a long way to go.  I personally refuse to give up or to abandon this vision.  It’s time to organize and engage with one another so that our very culture says NO MORE to sexual violence, domestic abuse and child abuse.

I believe we can get there.  Will you believe too?


This blog was originally featured on the Joyful Heart Foundation blog1in6 Thursdays.













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