Wear denim to work and raise money for programs that combat violence against women: It's a campaign the local YWCA is coordinating this month for a fourth straight year.
To recognize National Denim Day, the YWCA of Northwest Ohio is asking area employers to relax their workplace dress codes for one or more days during the week of April 22 through 26 and encourage participating employees to donate $5 to the YWCA for each day they dress in denim.
Funds raised will go toward a variety of programs that benefit women and girls, including the Battered Women’s Shelter, H.O.P.E. Rape Crisis, ENCORE Plus, Heart Plus, YWCA Child Care Resource and Referral, youth-development projects, and permanent supportive housing.
All businesses that participate will be given stickers for staff members to wear to identify the cause they are wearing denim to support. “In addition to being a fund-raiser, it’s a great opportunity to focus some attention on violence against women,” said Deb Stoll, the YWCA H.O.P.E. Center's director
Across the United States, a woman is battered every 15 seconds, according to YWCA statistics.
Denim Day has been recognized for many years, with its origins in a 1992 Italian case in which a girl was raped by a driving instructor, Ms. Stoll said. Though the man was tried and found guilty, the Italian supreme court later overturned the conviction “because the girl wore tight jeans, ruling that she must have helped him remove the jeans. Therefore, this was an act of consensual sex, not rape,” according to a YWCA recounting of the case.
To protest the ruling, women working in the Italian Parliament wore jeans to work. “It spread to our country, and it's kind of worked its way across the country,” Ms. Stoll said.
Lynn Jacquot, executive director of the Battered Women's Shelter, said the approach extends through the awareness of the entire community.
“I think we all in this community understand that we have a responsibility to end domestic violence and sexual violence,” she said. Providing services for survivors is a “critical piece of that puzzle,” Ms. Jacquot said.
Ms. Stoll said fund-raising is constantly important for the agency because most of the programs offered are free to the public.
“When you rely on grant funding, you can imagine there is always a need for additional funds,” she said. Last year, the agency received a positive response to the idea, she said.
“Of course, we'd love to see the event grow. I think a lot of agencies who are allowing their employees to break their dress code and wear jeans to work like the fact there's something to display the reason why their employees are in denim.”
Ms. Jacquot said employers should be encouraged to participate.
“We would very much encourage people to support Denim Day and companies to participate and other employees to dress down for a day in recognition of those who have been harmed or are being harmed,” she said.
Contact Kelly McLendon at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6522 or on Twitter @KMcBlade.