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I find it to be a pretty strange coincidence that a few weeks ago, I decided to do a 4-part series of blogs about denim trends, because I love jeans…who doesn’t? Then I found out that April 24 was National Denim Day and thought, what a coincidence? I was thinking it was just one of those fun “holidays,” days arbitrarily designated to celebrate the things we love in life (like jeans). But I didn’t have to look very far to find that I was way off the mark (though by then a few days had passed – though I can say that I did wear denim on Denim Day!). The day has a meaning and movement behind it that goes far deeper than I could have imagined – wearing denim on National Denim Day is symbolic of your support of the movement’s aim to get rid of the outdated views and preconceptions that people still have about sexual assault and its victims. Wearing jeans is also relevant because this terrible incident of injustice that led to Denim Day would likely not have happened had the victim not been wearing jeans at the time.

Let me back up and start from the beginning to avoid confusion. In Italy in the early 1990s, an 18-year-old girl was picked up by her married 45-year-old driving instructor, supposedly for a lesson. Instead, he drove her to an isolated area and sexually assaulted her. Her parents were very supportive and helpful as she pressed charges against him. First he was convicted of a lesser offense, indecent exposure in a public place. The victim was not satisfied with the outcome, so she filed an appeal (unlike in our court system, in Italy both the plaintiff and the defendant can appeal the verdict.), and he was eventually convicted of all charges, including rape, and sentenced to 34 months in jail. Next, it was his turn to appeal his conviction, and in 1999 – 7 years after the original crime was committed – the case made it all the way up to Italy’s highest court. In a matter of days, the court ruled in favor of the formerly-convicted rapist, overturning his conviction and releasing him from jail. Simply put, it was stated that the case lacked evidence for a conviction; however, in it’s official ruling, the court stated: “It is common knowledge … that jeans
cannot even be partly removed without the effective help of the person wearing them … and it is impossible if the victim is struggling with all her might.” The Chief Judge explained further that “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.”

Understandably outraged by the verdict, the women in the Italian Parliament sprung into action by wearing jeans to work as a means of expressing their protest against the court’s ruling. The case made international news, and motivated the California Senate and Assembly to join the protest by wearing jeans to work. It further spread to Patricia Giggans, Executive Director of Peace Over Violence, a nonprofit whose mission is to eliminate all types of violence in our society. They provide emergency help and other services to assist victims as they recover, community education about prevention and other important issues (such as the legal definition of consent), and a slew of other empowering benefits and forms of advocacy to it’s clients.

Since it’s induction in 1999, the Denim
Day movement and message quickly spread throughout the nation, as well as to 120 foreign countries. Wearing jeans on the designated Wednesday each year in April has become a symbol of expression, that we as a society will no longer accept biased and destructive misconceptions about all types of violence and its victims. In addition to wearing jeans to express your support, you can get involved in many other ways – CLICK HERE to view the page on Peace over Violence’s web site about how you can further support the cause, and not just on Denim Day.

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