TW: This article will be talking about sexual assault and harassment.
The nasty reality of our society is that nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States have been sexually assaulted at one point in their lives. The harsher reality of this statistic is that it is a mere approximation, as many don’t ever go to the authorities to report their assault.
The History of Denim Day
The truth behind Denim Day is heart wrenching, as it goes to show why many never reach out for help, and why many will not press charges against their assaulter; The 18 year old girl, who is the sole reason for the start of Denim Day, gave her trust to authorities only for them to let her down.
In Italy of 1992, an 18 year old girl was taking her first ever driving lesson with her 45 year old driving instructor, when he took her down an isolated road, proceeded to take her out of the car and forcibly raped her. Despite being threatened by the instructor to not say anything, the 18 year old found the courage after this heinous act to tell her parents, who helped her press charges against her assaulter. The assaulter was arrested and charged, but within time appealed his conviction. This case would be carried all the way to the Italian Supreme Court, where it was overturned and the assaulter was set free, the reasoning of the Chief Judge being that as the victim was wearing very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them. The removal of the jeans by the victim no longer makes this rape but rather consensual sex. This became well-known throughout Italy as the “jeans alibi.”
It was then, with this ridiculous verdict, that the women of the Italian Parliament immediately began to protest by wearing jeans to work. This news was spread world-wide,and traveled all the way to California, where the California Senate did the same. It was then in 1999 when Peace Over Violence organized the first official Denim Day on April 28th.
What This Means
Denim became the acting symbol as protest against the mysoginistic and incorrect attitudes on sexual harassment, abuse, assault and rape. Wanting to educate others, to make them understand the misconcpetions that surround sexual violence and rape culture. Some misconceptions are that “they were asking for it,” “boys will be boys,” and the overall tolerance of sexual harassment that is being allowed. Rape culture, and it’s bizarre even to say that there is a culture, is surrounded by the misconceptions of what drives men and females, what defines gender and sex, and the immense pressure for both women and men to be tolerant of these acts. This day acts as a stand up against these poor construed messages and to fight back against the tolerance that has been built around rape culture.
Combating Rape Culture
As I mentioned above, rape culture exists. It is a culture in which rape and sexual violence are seen as common occurences. It was built off of misogynistic views and poor gender stereotypes that can be used to belittle someone if they are not acting feminine or masculuine enough.
While Denim Day is a great example of combating rape culture, there are many other ways that one can help such as: avoiding language that is degrading towards women or men, speaking out against someone making offensive remarks/jokes, communicating with sexual partners and not assuming consent, and defining your own manhood or womanhood by not allowing the stereotypes to control you and your actions. These are just a few of the ways that one can help combat against rape culture.
Unlike in the history of Denim Day, we want to provide the support and understanding, the empathy and guidance to women and men who have experienced sexual violence. We want to show that we do not think like the Italian Supreme Court did in 1992. So on April 28th, I hope you were able to show your support and combat against sexual violence by wearing denim, because there is a rape culture that now exists and there are women and men who don’t believe they have anyone to support them, but we can be their support.