Why Denim Day Matters

In this guest post, Veronika Walker explains the importance of Denim Day—and how the events that inspired Denim Day are not just a thing of the past. 

In the 1990s in Italy, an 18-year-old was raped by her 45-year-old driving instructor. He drove to an isolated place, pulled her out of the car, wrestled her out of her jeans, and raped her. Later that night, she told her parents and they supported her decision to press charges. The assailant was convicted and sentenced to jail.

He appealed the sentence, and the case made its way to the Italian Supreme Court. The Supreme Court released the perpetrator and dismissed all charges, ruling that it was impossible to remove a pair of jeans "without the collaboration of the person wearing them," and that the young woman must therefore have consented to sex. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/277881.stm]

The next day, women in the Italian Parliament wore jeans in protest and held placards that read, “Jeans: Alibi for Rape.”[http://www.cjel.net/online/16_1-faedi/] News of the overturned verdict spread internationally, and the California Senate and Assembly joined the protest. Thus, Denim Day was born.

I want to say this was an unusual case, or that such injustices don’t occur very often. I want to say that, in 2013, treating survivors like this would be unthinkable. But I can’t truthfully say that. Just look at the sexual assault of the high school girl in Steubenville, Ohio, and how major media outlets focused more on the boys’ ruined lives than the survivor’s plight. We see this when American colleges and universities encourage rape survivors to leave campus humiliated and revictimized rather than help them seek justice. We, as a society, have long been accustomed to the degradation of women and survivors of sexual trauma.

I know when enough is enough for me, and if enough is enough for you, then you can start by participating in Denim Daythis Wednesday, April 24. Wear jeans with a purpose and engage in conversation about sexual assault and prevention.

For more information about Denim Day, visit http://denimdayusa.org/

Original Denim Day participants.  [Source: http://www.repubblica.it/online/fatti/jeans/tridico/tridico.html]

​Veronika Walker is a junior Women's and Gender Studies major at the University of South Carolina. She volunteers with Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands, has interned at SC Equalityand is currently a full-time youth activist with the South Carolina Contraceptive Access Campaign. She loves to read and hang out with her one-year-old Rottweiler named Baloo.