By Emily Binns & Mary Husser
Throughout the month of October, a display of painted blue jeans was set up at both the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library and the Creative 360 Center. The jeans were displayed in October because it was Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is closely related to why the jeans were made.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is meant to remember those who were lost because of domestic violence, celebrate those who have overcome it and reconnect with others who are trying to end it. The jeans were created and displayed in connection with Denim Day, which seeks to spread awareness about domestic violence and what healthy relationships should consist of.
Denim Day, which is recognized every year by the Midland Shelter House, came about because of the overturning of a rape conviction from a Supreme Court case involving the sexual assault of a young woman. The victim, a high school aged girl, was wearing blue jeans during the time of which the assault was said to have occurred. The defense argued that because the girl wore blue jeans, which were tight and would have been difficult for the defendant to remove, she must have consented. The defense won the case. This led to the creation of Denim Day and the hope to spread awareness about sexual violence.
The jeans that had been on display at the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library and Creative 360 Center were decorated and painted in order to try to show what these people thought relationships should really be about.
“[The jeans] really came to symbolize all the raw attitudes about sexual assault,” Executive Shelter House Director Sharon Mortensen said. “They depict the need for healthy relationships and it creates an understanding about the violence that occurs.”
These pieces of art were also displayed in the DHS hallways by the main office a couple of years ago. This was because some of the jeans were painted by DHS students and staff who have graduated. DHS Counselor Kurt Faust, who has since retired, was very involved in the cause.
“We had a number of Dow High students who participated in past years,” Mortensen said. “Most of [the jeans] were done by high school students in the area.”
Denim Day is only one of several ways the Shelter House tried to reach out to members of the community.
“We try to do a variety of things in the community to raise awareness of the fact that our relationships should be healthy and model respect in the way we treat each other,” Mortensen said.
The display has been very successful in years past and the Shelter House plans on continuing to spread domestic violence awareness in the future.