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Western’s Counseling and Wellness Center celebrates Denim Day

To recognize the international holiday, students and staff came together in solidarity with sexual assault survivors.

Counseling and Wellness Center employees, all in denim, stand at a table with information and resources in Red Square at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash. on April 24, 2024. Denim Day is celebrated in solidarity with sexual assault survivors. // Photo by Julia Hawkins

 Content Warning: This article references sexual abuse and sexual assault

Western’s Counseling and Wellness Center celebrated Denim Day in Red Square on Wednesday, offering sexual assault resources, educational materials and survivor advocacy button-making, for anyone on campus.

This year marks the 25th year of Denim Day being recognized as an international holiday, since its inception in 1999.  

Denim Day began after the Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction of an 18-year-old girl by claiming her jeans were too tight to be removed by one person.

Women in the Italian government organized to wear denim, demonstrating that clothes do not equal consent, according to Liz Stuart, the assistant director of outreach and health promotion at the Counseling and Wellness Center. 

“Regardless of clothes, no one deserves to have their body touched in a way they don’t choose, that’s why we’re here today, to send the message that clothes don’t equal consent,” Stuart said.

The event coincides with the 23rd annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Before its official declaration, the month was about the awareness and prevention of both sexual assault and abuse, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.  

According to Stuart, sexual assault survivors tend to blame themselves because there is a mythology that enforces blaming victims. 

“[Celebrating Denim Day] should be on every single college campus, helping students be seen,” said Maria Kotchetova, a Wellness Advocate. “It’s such a difficult thing to talk about.” 

By having events like these, Stuart said, we are sending the message to those survivors that your story is your story and we want to support your healing.

“Survivors often say that first interaction when they share this really intimate, private, hurtful experience impacts their healing journey moving forward,” Stuart said, “From person to person, believing survivors makes a difference in an individual.”

Kotchetova emphasizes that the Wellness Center is here to stand and here for you and that they have the resources so you don’t have to stand alone. 

Students who attended Denim Day felt the event sent a message of solidarity and unity, according to Alexia Rosas, a student and event attendee. 

“[Denim Day] shows them that there are people that care and they’re not alone,” said Rosas. “They have people there for them if they need it.”

Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services is a local resource that supports all victims of these crimes. 

Resources for students are available through Western’s Counseling and Wellness Center. Students can contact the center and a survivor advocate will provide emotional support, talk through all the available options and focus on the survivor’s safety and safety planning.

“Being a university student is more than just academics, It’s also coming to the counseling center and thinking about the services they provide, especially the BIPOC support,” said Nia Gipson, the coordinator of the Black Student Coalition. 

Western also offers a 24-hour support helpline. Students who do not feel safe in their relationship or home can get in touch with advocates, who will help them think through a safety plan, according to their official page. 

If you or someone you know, have experienced sexual assault, you are not alone. Contact Western’s Survivor Advocacy Services at 360-650-3164 for help and resources.

Julia Hawkins

Julia Hawkins (she/her) is a campus news reporter for The Front this quarter. She is a second-year journalism/public relations major. Outside of reporting, Julia enjoys hanging out in The Planet office, baking and asking random people to pet their dogs. You can reach her at 

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