Here is why we observe Denim Day in LA & USA

By Patricia Giggans, Executive Director at Peace Over Violence

In 1992, in a small town outside of Naples, Italy, a young woman accused her 45-year-old driving instructor of brutally raping her during a driving lesson. She told police that he drove her to an isolated area, forced her out of the car, and raped her.


He was convicted on lesser charges and later convicted on all charges by an appeals court in 1998. He was sentenced to 34 months in prison before the case made its way to the Italian high court. There, the sentence was overturned based on the justices’ belief that since the victim wore tight jeans that were not easily removed, she must have helped her rapist remove them.


The justices declared that this was not an act of rape, but consensual sex. This decision outraged lawmakers and organizations not only in Italy, but worldwide. Female members of Italian Parliament protested on the steps of the Supreme Court by wearing jeans. Immediately, this image spread. In Sacramento, Calif., members of the California Senate and Assembly followed suit by wearing jeans on the steps of the Capitol.


When I saw these images from Italy and California, I felt that we all should wear jeans to protest rape and sexual violence. I established the first Denim Day in LA in 1999. We were able to mobilize and engage individuals, politicians, organizations and businesses by encouraging everyone to wear jeans as a visible sign of protest against the misconceptions surrounding sexual violence.


“Dollars for Denim” drives raise money for local rape crisis centers and, with each new year, the campaign spreads even further. Today, what started as a citywide protest has become a national day of awareness that is spreading globally. Denim Day in LA & USA is held annually in April during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.


Since its inception, millions of people have participated in Denim Day. The impact of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have not only expanded awareness about the campaign, but also have allowed participants as far away as Afghanistan and South Korea to show their support for survivors.


As large as the campaign grows, it is supremely evident that misconceptions about rape and sexual assault still exist. It is imperative that we continue to spread the message: there is no excuse and never an invitation to rape.

 


Story from the 2014 Spring & Summer edition of The Resource.

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