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UW community members are invited to wear denim to show support for survivors of sexual assault

A large group of about sixty people wearing denim stand in a big open space, smiling up at the camera.
Libby Thorson
University of Wyoming
A group photo taken during Denim Day at the University of Wyoming in 2023. The event is a nationally and internationally recognized movement that brings awareness to the impact of sexual assault and offers support to survivors.

An Italian Supreme Court case in the 90s sparked international outrage when a judge didn’t convict a perpetrator in an assault case – on the premise that the survivor’s jeans were too tight. That outrage turned into Denim Day, an annual day of action that raises awareness around sexual assault and pushes back against victim-blaming.

On April 24, University of Wyoming (UW) community members are invited to wear denim to show their solidarity for survivors of sexual assault. April is also Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The school first joined the Denim Day movement in 2019. According to UW assistant dean of students Libby Thorson, the event has continued to pick up momentum over the last few years.

“I feel like it's become a tradition here that I am proud of. Our campus community comes together to make sure survivors, not just at UW but in our state, know that they're not alone and that they’re seen, that they matter,” she said.

Thorson is also the Deputy Title IX coordinator at the university and said Denim Day is both about supporting survivors and having conversations about the context in which sexual assault happens.

According to a 2023 Sexual Misconduct Climate Report at UW, roughly 18 percent of students reported that they had experienced sexual assault while enrolled at the school. However, that number is down more than 10 percent from a similar survey in 2018.

People participate in awareness-raising activities at Denim Day at the University of Wyoming in 2023.
Hannah Downey
University of Wyoming
People participate in awareness-raising activities at Denim Day at the University of Wyoming in 2023.

Thorson believes that has a lot to do with the university’s Green Dot bystander-training program. It’s part of a national certification training program that focuses on interpersonal violence scenarios such as sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, and stalking. The program was implemented in 2020 and offers optional training for students, staff and faculty to develop skills to intervene in those sorts of scenarios.

“I think [Green Dot] creates this culture where we say, ‘At UW, violence is not tolerated and it's on all of us to do our part to prevent it,’” she said. “We don't want to wait until the end of April to have these conversations, so Green Dot and our Violence Prevention Center really help us have those conversations, help do training and educate our community year-round.”

On Denim Day, participants are encouraged to post photos of their outfits on Instagram with the hashtag #CowboysWearDenim and can tag @UofWyoming to show support. A group photo will be taken in Skylight Lounge at noon on Wednesday.

There will also be a Green Dot Day of Action pop-up with tabling and educational activities on Simpson Plaza and in the Wyoming Union from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. New this year, the event will wrap up with a storytelling event at 6 p.m. in Pokes Pub at the Union, featuring the experiences of bystanders and survivors.

In honor of Denim Day, people can also contribute to the Survivor Emergency Fund, which supports student survivors so they can continue to focus on their education.

Hannah Habermann is the rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has a degree in Environmental Studies and Non-Fiction Writing from Middlebury College and was the co-creator of the podcast Yonder Lies: Unpacking the Myths of Jackson Hole. Hannah also received the Pattie Layser Greater Yellowstone Creative Writing & Journalism Fellowship from the Wyoming Arts Council in 2021 and has taught backpacking and climbing courses throughout the West.
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