Denim Day: Protesting violence on Wednesday, April 25

By virtue of my position with my employer (management level) and my age (several decades old), I tend to dress fairly traditionally for work–usually in dresses or skirts. But tomorrow, April 25, I’m going to wear jeans to the office to participate in Denim Day in LA & USA.

Denim Day is a nationwide event launched in Los Angeles in 1999 by the pioneering anti-violence organization Peace Over Violence to promote education about and prevention of sexual violence. Individuals, elected officials, businesses and students are encouraged to “make a social statement with their fashion statement” by wearing jeans as a visible means of protest against the misconceptions and excuses that surround sexual assault–including the suggestion that certain clothing women wear “invites” it.

Denim Day in USA poster via

The organization’s website offers the facts about why we need to make this statement:

  • Every two and a half minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted.
  • One in six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape.
  • 82.8% of rapes committed by an intimate are not reported to the police.
  • 35% of college men who voluntarily participated in psychological research conducted at several universities indicated they might commit a rape if they knew they could get away with it.
  • Two million children around the world are forced into prostitution every year.
  • Law enforcement arrests for internet sex crimes against minors are on the rise.
  • 15,000 to 19,000 people with developmental disabilities are raped each year in North America.
  • Survivors deserve support and assistance, not shame and blame.
  • We want to build healthy relationships, families and communities free from sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence.

Denim Day emerged as a response to the verdict in an Italian rape case in the late 1990s, according to Peace Over Violence and the Valley Star:

Denim Day began nearly 15 years ago after an Italian Supreme Court chief judge overturned and dismissed the 1998 case of an 18-year-old driving student against her 45-year-old instructor when he appealed the original verdict convicting him of rape.

According to Peace Over Violence—the organization sponsoring “Denim Day in LA and USA”— the chief judge ruling on the case said, “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.”

The new verdict upset much of Italy, and according to POV, female Italian Parliament members were so outraged by the overturn that they wore jeans to work in protest. Following suit, the California Senate and Assembly, as well as POV’s Executive Director Patricia Giggans, sparked the protest in Los Angeles.

Many organizations will be altering their normal dress codes for the day, including LA Unified School District schools that normally require uniforms, in order to give attention to this issue…and in a time when there seems to be a lot of interest in turning back the clock on matters that are particularly significant for women, it’s especially important to pay attention. Eva Smith’s post about Denim Day on MomsLA places it into context with some recent news items.

Even if jeans are your normal daily “uniform,” please take some time tomorrow to educate yourself–and others–about the myths and facts of sexual violence, and make a statement about stopping it.

Disclosure: My employer is participating in Denim Day 2012, and I am sharing this information as a personal show of support. No compensation is involved.

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