FLORENCE S.C. (WPDE) — Community members and local organizations came together Wednesday to spread awareness in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Wednesday, April 28 in particular is Denim Day, named after an Italian Supreme Court case, where the justices overturned a rape conviction. The judges felt since the victim was wearing tight jeans, she had to help the perpetrator take them off, thereby implying consent.
In protest of the decision, women in the Italian Parliament wore jeans the next day to show support of the victim. This campaign is the longest-running sexual violence prevention and education campaign in history.
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A Denim and Dance event hosted at the City Center Famers Market in Florence by the Aroha Arts Collective looked to inform the public about sexual assault while connecting the community.
"I think the arts is a powerful way to connect to people's hearts and to bring to people together and to raise awareness," said organizer and sexual assault survivor, Adelia Ellis.
According to the South Carolina Coalition against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, 45.9% of South Carolina women and 17.8% of men report being victims of sexual violence or coercion other than rape.
Organizations like the Pee Dee Coalition, Four Giving Hearts, and Empowered To Heal were also there to educate people on sexual assault and what you can do to help.
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"It is spreading awareness on a larger scale and these people when they leave here, they're going to talk about, they're going to post about it on social media," said Founder of Four Giving Hearts, Charlene McKnight.
Shana Sullivan with the Pee Dee Coalition said Florence County has seen an increase in sexual assault incidents during the pandemic. She believed Wednesday's event is taking the right steps towards change.
"What better way to bring people together than dancing? To me, music is for the soul, it's for everyone," said Sullivan.
Ellis said she understands it takes time for the wounds to heal but she hopes events like these will help survivors see they are not alone.
"When you get to place in your healing that you are ready to speak openly, there are people waiting to be there to support you," said Ellis.