Denim Day

L.A. wears jeans with a purpose to advocate for sexual consent

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Jasmine Amabile

A piece from Denim Day.

Jasmine Amabile, Staff Writer

“Because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape but consensual sex,” an Italian judge said in the 1990s.

Outraged by this verdict, women in the Italian Parliament launched into action and protested by wearing jeans to work. This was before social media, but it had immediate impact. It encouraged the California Senate to do the same. Denim Day began in Los Angeles with non-profit organization Peace Over Violence and anti-sexual and domestic violence advocate Patricia Giggans in 1999.

Last Wednesday, dozens of women and men gathered at City Hall in Los Angeles to mark the occasion. “Los Angeles is the flagship city for Denim Day,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said on Twitter. “Inspired by the case in Italy, Denim Day was started right here in our city 19 years ago. Today we continue that legacy.” Garcetti and Giggans were present on April 25.

Giggans was so struck by the story of an 18-year-old girl who was raped by her married 45-year-old driving instructor in Italy. He took her to an isolated road, wrestled her out of her jeans, raped her and threatened her with death if she ever told anyone. The offender was later prosecuted, convicted of rape, and sentenced to jail. His rape conviction was then overturned, because the Italian Supreme Court attested that the survivor had to have helped her rapist remove her jeans, implying consent. Understandably, many women were livid. Giggans took action.

The Denim Day campaign has now been around for 19 years, and is a national educational campaign. Wearing jeans on this day is a symbol of protesting against destructive attitudes and misconceptions about sexual assault. The Peace Over Violence mission is to build healthy relationships, families, and communities free from sexual, domestic, and interpersonal violence, and so Denim Day is held every April, on a Wednesday, in recognition of Sexual Violence Awareness Month.

In the past year, the topic of sexual violence has become widespread, especially through the media where survivors have spoken out about their experiences. We’ve grown so much since the 1990s in how we communicate about rape and violence. Unfortunately, the issue of sexual violence still plagues us years after the case in Italy, as made evident in our daily news cycle. We need action to end sexual assault. Violence is preventable through knowledge.

The organization Peace Over Violence is one component of education for the public, through initiatives like Denim Day. “We have seen the incredible work of survivors and allies in the past years,” Giggans wrote in a statement, in which she acknowledges music, including Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens To You” and her performance at the Oscars. In the same statement, Giggans also cites the survivor statement of Emily Doe, a young woman who attended a 2015 Stanford University frat party and was horribly assaulted by a wealthy student with connections that helped him get away with his crime.

I, too, am a survivor of sexual violence and I stand with Denim Day, and the helping hand that Peace Over Violence gives. Rape culture ends with us. All of us.

 

Jasmine Amabile can be reached at [email protected]