Students wore denim and high heels as they walked a mile around campus on Wednesday, April 24, to acknowledge gender-based violence and stand in solidarity with sexual assault survivors.
Denim Day, an event hosted by Survivor Advocacy Services (SAS), Associated Students Inc. (ASI), Bronco Events and Activities Team (BEAT) and the Women’s Resource Center (WRC), began with powerful spoken word poetry by Xica Necia, a poet and sexual violence survivor.
Necia also led the mile-long walk with various chants, one being “Break the silence, end the violence.”
Ori Kennet, a fourth-year business student and captain of the men’s soccer team, was among the many male students who donned high heels to participate.
“It’s a great cause and it’s important for everyone in our school to know sexual assault has to stop,” he said.
Pasindu Senaratne, third-year business student, ASI president-elect and current vice president, also participated in the walk and highlighted the importance of wearing the high heels.
“Putting the heels on felt more like solidarity,” he said. “If we walked without the heels, it would be more like ‘I’m here to support you, but I’m not really feeling what you’re feeling.’”
The walk concluded in the Bronco Student Center (BSC), where students took off their high heels and listened to spoken word poetry from Char, a sexual assault survivor on campus, and a keynote speech from Thea Monyeé, a licensed therapist who self-identifies as “Black Woman Creative.” Char’s poetry shed light on the realities of sexual assault and how it can happen to anyone.
“I want people to know this happens to real people,” Char said.
She said she hopes her poetry will help raise awareness of the issue and lead to change.
“I had honestly never met a real survivor,” she said. “When this happened to me, and I think if I had met someone who went through it beforehand, it would have helped with my healing. Just the fact that I am a person, it puts into reality that this is an issue and it needs to change. Our community needs to change.”
Keynote speaker Monyeé gave a speech divided into two parts. The first part was directed at the community and how people should treat the stories of sexual assault survivors.
“The person sitting in front of you, sharing their story, and this incredible moment of bravery, is a universe,” Monyeé said in her speech. “They were dynamically perplex and beautiful, before this moment, and will be, even so after it.”
The second part of Monyeé’s speech was for survivors.
“I believe you,” she said. “I recognize the internal mountains you had to climb to share what happened. You are not alone. There are people who can help you carry this weight, that you never asked to carry.”
Monyeé also had the audience participate in an affirmation practice, where students closed their eyes, placed their hands on their hearts and repeated positive affirmations to themselves.
In the BSC hallway, the Clothesline Project was displayed, featuring painted shirts honoring the survivors of interpersonal violence.
Char said she believes Denim Day helps survivors and hopes the university will plan more similar events in the future.
“[Events like Denim Day] raise awareness and that’s the most powerful thing we can do now,” she said. “It’s hard to jump into things if people don’t know or understand the issue. Awareness is power.”
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