Usually, dress at the Waupaca County Courthouse falls under the category of “business casual.”
Although most of the staff, with the exception of the lawyers, seldom wear suits, they are also unlikely to be wearing jeans.
Wednesday, April 23, was an exception. Most of the women working at the courthouse were wearing jeans to commemorate Denim Day.
They were not being casual. They were joining women throughout the world to express a serious concern.
The international event dates back to 1999. The Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction because the victim had been wearing tight jeans, thereby giving her consent to being raped.
As news spread, the ruling sparked outrage throughout the world.
Since then, tens of thousands of professional women in Europe and the United States have worn jeans to work on Denim Day to show solidarity with victims and raise awareness about misguided attitudes regarding sexual violence.
Tracy Hilger is an advocate with Sexual Assault Victim Services (SAVS) in Waupaca County.
The CAP Services program works with victims and their families, following incidents of rape, incest. child sexual abuse, date rape, marital rape, sexual harassment and unwanted sexual touching.
“We will respond to an emergency room or to a law enforcement agency. We accompany victims to legal proceedings, offer support groups or one-on-one support. We provide advocacy for the victim at any time in their journey,” Hilger said.
SAVS provides no-cost, confidential services, as well as access and referral for immediate medical, counseling and legal services.
SAVS staff and volunteers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The 24-hour crisis line is 800-472-3377. SAVS may also be reached during business hours at 715-258-9575, ext. 240.
They will help survivors of sexual assault deal with hospitals, law enforcement and the courts.
“Some victims choose to report years after an assault,” Hilger said. “Sometimes, they don’t report it to the police at all, but they just want to talk it through with someone.”
In 2013, Waupaca County SAVS had 260 victim contacts. In the first three months of this year, SAVS has had 202 victim contacts.
The organization worked with a total of 72 new victims in 2013, and 26 new victims from January through March of 2014.
SAVS accompanied 17 victims to emergency rooms and 14 victims into courtrooms in 2013.
A study by the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, found that Waupaca County law enforcement responded to 60 reported sexual assaults in 2010. There were 11 sexual assault convictions, five involving children, that year in the county.
Hilger said volunteer advocates are currently needed in Waupaca County.
Advocates must be at least age 18, have a telephone and reliable transportation, submit to a background check and complete 20 hours of training.
They must also be good listeners, empathetic, non-judgmental and willing to offer emotional support to victims who are in distress.
For more information about becoming a SAVS volunteer advocate, call 715-343-7114.