As several Kentucky communities participate in Denim Day Wednesday, experts say it may take a change in culture to improve the increasing number of sexual assault victims.
Denim Day began in 1992 after an Italian court ruled in a sexual assault case, saying a young woman’s pants were too tight to have been removed by the attacker. Since then, communities worldwide have acknowledged the day by wearing denim, but the number of sexual assault cases has grown.
The most recent state data shows that nearly one in four women is a victim of sexual violence, said Steven Bowling with the Center for Women and Families. This is slight worse than the national statistics that show around one in five women have had some form of sexual assault.
“It just doesn’t happen in bars, it just doesn’t happen in one part of town, it doesn’t happen just because I had too much to drink,” said Bowling.
The alarming numbers are difficult to accurately pin down but by some estimates over 50 percent of sexual assault cases go unreported. Regardless, everyone can help improve the perception of sexual assault, said director of Louisville’s Office for Women Chris Owens. She gave an example of how someone might react when they hear an inappropriate joke.
“They can not laugh, they can say I don’t think that’s funny, they can leave the conversation,” she said.
It’s important to education youth on sexual assault issues, she said, and in order to turn around the high number of victims it’ll start with changing culture.