Every year, on a Wednesday in April, people are encouraged to wear jeans in an event called Denim Day. The significance of wearing denim jeans on this upcoming April 26th is to raise awareness about sexual assault and to enforce the importance of consent. The history of Denim Day originates from an all-too-often and horrifying trend of victim-blaming in rape and domestic abuse cases.
In Rome 1992, a 18 year old woman was raped by her 45 year old driving instructor. The man threatened to kill her if she told anyone, but later that day she told her parents and pressed charges against the man. The court initially found the man guilty, but in 1998, the Italian supreme court overruled the conviction, claiming that, because the woman was wearing tight denim jeans, she must have helped her rapist take them off which, therefore, implied consent. In fact the Italian Supreme Court even stated that, “…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 created international outrage, prompting the women of the Italian Parliament and the California Senate to wear denim jeans in defiance. However, despite the protests, the Italian Supreme court did not overturn their “denim” defense until 2008, 10 years later.
Despite the absurdity that wearing tight jeans automatically implies consensual sex, it is a common theme, especially on college campuses, to blame victims for the assaults that happen to them. Many victims of sexual assault are asked, “Well, what were you wearing?” as if clothes somehow imply consent or reason as to why the victim was raped. The victim-blaming system has kept sexual predators free, victims isolated, and institutions guiltless.
The UC system is no stranger to sexual assault allegations on their campuses. In February, the University of California settled a 1.5 million dollar lawsuit for failure to address previous sexual assault allegations against a professor. A negligence on the part of the UC system that resulted in the rape of a UC Santa Cruz student. The professor had a history of sexual violence and harassment, yet the university failed to remove him from his position.
That’s exactly why we should embrace Denim Day on our campus. We need to show that the only one responsible for a rape is the rapist. By simply wearing jeans, we recognize systematic-victim blaming and stand in solidarity for those who have been abused.
Picture Credits: Marcus Fox