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Denim Day in Auburn makes strong sexual-violence awareness statement

Courthouse event helps Soroptimist clubs mark National Sexual Violence Awareness Month
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Statistics on sexual violence are daunting.

Twenty to 25 percent of college women and 15 percent of college men are victims of forced sex during their time in college.

Rape is the most under-reported crime, with 63 percent of sexual assaults not reported to authorities.

One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.

Eighty-one percent of women and 35 percent of men report significant short- or long-term impacts from sexual assault, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Hoping to make a difference and raise awareness, about 50 men and women – many of the women belonging to Soroptimist clubs in Auburn and Roseville – rallied Wednesday on the steps of the Placer County Courthouse to mark National Denim Day.

The annual day of awareness on sexual violence encourages a show of solidarity symbolized by participants donning denim clothing. For the past 15 years, the Peace Over Violence group has organized the campaign nationally on a Wednesday in April to mark Sexual Violence Awareness Month.

The campaign was triggered by an Italian Supreme Court ruling overturning a rape conviction on the grounds that the victim was wearing tight jeans and must have helped her rapist remove her jeans, implying consent.

On Wednesday, the rally drew Women of Worth founder Sandy Escobar-Schmidt, who said that National Denim Day is an opportunity to encourage open dialogue on sexual assault.

“People need to feel comfortable and open up and talk about it,” Escobar-Schmidt said. “It happens at any age. People need to know that their bodies are their bodies and no one has a right to harm them.”

Kathy Dunbar, president of Soroptimist International of the American River, said the story of the Italian court drew outrage and led women legislators to wear denim the next day to work in protest – touching off an international reaction that reverberates to this day.

“It’s a shock that in such recent times, judges would be so chauvinistic about a rapist,” Dunbar said.

The rally Wednesday fits in with the Soroptimist International mission of helping women and girls in areas that include human trafficking, as well as sexual violence awareness, she said.