Rockford University denim day shines light on sexual assault

ROCKFORD, Ill (WIFR)--- With bravery and through tears, students at Rockford University created a space to openly talk about sexual assault.

"We have to shift that conversation about what consent is, we cannot continue to say no means no, it has to become a conversation around only yes means yes," says Jennifer Cacciapaglia with the Mayor's office of Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking.

Breaking down stereotypes and understanding how action influence others was the theme of the event.

"We want you to get to compassionate and loving but somehow you're going to navigate that path through things like manning up and growing a pair and don't be a sissy and don't show emotion and be really violent," says Rockford University professor, Dr. Sharon Meilahn Bartlett.

Speakers at the event also educated students on what sexual assault looks like.

"I don't need a show of hands and I don't need anybody to tell me that statistically and from my experience I know in this room we have victims and survivors of sexual assault. I also know that we have rapist who are in this room," says Lieutenant Kurt Whisenhand with the Rockford Police department.

Speakers and organizers also wanted to let the students know once more that they matter.

"I also want to thank each any everyone of you for listening to that story because stories and words and truth carry weight," says Sam Thomas, coordinator with Rockford Sexual Assault Counseling.