Last year while I was walking to the elevator in my dorm building, I happened to come across a Denim Day flyer. I had never heard of Denim Day and assumed that it was something my university had put together for a certain club or event. However as I read the rest of flyer, I was shocked that I had never heard of this massive social event that happens world wide.
What started Denim Day?
Before there was Denim Day, there was just an 18-year-old Italian girl, excited to be picked up for her first driving lesson. She was picked up by a 45-year-old driving instructor, who allegedly raped her for an hour. After he was done committing his heinous crime, he told her if she told anyone, he would kill her.
When she returned home, she told her parents and together, they pressed charges against the predator.
The rape occurred in 1992 and the man was convicted and sentenced for his crimes. But in 1998, after appealing all the way to the Italian Supreme Court, the court overturned the conviction and this young girl’s justice. The justices argued that because she had worn tight jeans to her driving lesson, she must have been complicit in the sexual acts committed and given her perpetrator her consent.
In its decision the Supreme Court said that, “it is a fact of common experience that it is nearly impossible to slip off tight jeans even partly without the active collaboration of the person who is wearing them.”
The decision did not go over well.
There was widespread protest over the Supreme Court’s decision within days. The women that were in the Italian Parliament began to protest by wearing jeans and holding signs that said “Jeans: An Alibi for Rape.”
Soon after, The California Senate and Assembly followed suit. The Executive Director for the Los Angeles commission of Peace over Violence made Denim Day an annual event and at least 20 other U.S. states officially recognize Denim Day as an April holiday.
In 2008, the Italian Supreme Court overturned that final decision and decided that there would no longer be a “denim” defense to a rape charge.
What exactly happens on Denim Day? When is it?
Internationally, people of all races and genders come together and wear denim as a symbol of protest against ridiculous and destructive attitudes and perspectives of sexual assault. This year’s official date is April 25th.
On the Denim Day Information website they “ask community members, elected officials, businesses and students to make a social statement with their fashion by wearing jeans on this day as a visible means of protest against the misconceptions that surround sexual assault.”
On many college campuses there will most likely be people trying to hand out stickers or shirts to get you to join the movement.
I would love to stand with survivors of sexual assault. How can I help?
Well for one, wear denim on Denim Day! Educate your friends on what Denim Day is and why they should participate with you. You might even be able to pair up with a group or club on campus that is raising awareness for Denim Day as well. In short, the more people that participate and know the story, the better.
Want to educate your friends that aren’t nearby? Take a cute picture and post it on your socials using the hashtags #DenimDay and #POV18 to get a conversation going and keep it going far after this year’s Denim Day.
Here’s mine from last year! I retold the story in my own words and spread my own message to those affected by sexual violence.
#denimday started in 1998 after an Italian Supreme Court judge overturned a rape conviction because the victim wore tight jeans. Wearing jeans became an international symbol of protest against erroneous and destructive attitudes about sexual assault. I am here to say that sexual violence is never okay. Consent must be given every single time and if it is not given it is an act of sexual violence. I believe and stand with all survivors of sexual assault.
By posting pictures and getting your friends involved online, you are generating a digital community that is dedicated to get rid of sexual violence.
You can also just update your cover photo with an image, logo, or message of solidarity, or even put a frame on you profile picture.
You can also help raise money for rape prevention education and healing services for survivors.
Peace over Violence hosts a “Dollars for Denim” fundraising campaign where anyone can donate and collect money for their organization. On their websites they have different options for students, business, employees, a school or community organizer, or even if you just live in Los Angeles.
The money collected at the end either goes to Peace over Violence, which is a Los Angeles based sexual and domestic violence prevention center or you can opt to give it to a local rape crisis center.
Together we can all make a great fashion statement AND a great social statement.0
Also published on Medium.