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City of Santa Monica Declares Wednesday “Denim Day”  
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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

April 25, 2017 -- The City of Santa Monica is declaring Wednesday “Denim Day,” part of a growing nationwide campaign -- now in its 18th year -- to help prevent, and educate the public about, sexual violence.

“Wear jeans with a purpose, as a visible means of protest against the misconceptions that surround sexual assault,” said Patricia Giggans, founder of the Denim Day in “LA & USA” campaign and executive director of Peace Over Violence.

“There is no excuse and never an invitation to rape,” she said in a letter to supporters of Denim Day.

“We have seen the incredible work of survivors and allies in the past years,” she said. “Survivors across the country have come out of the shadow and spoken out commanding national attention."

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month ("Santa Monica Joins in Dedication of April for Awareness and Prevention of Sexual Assault," March 30, 2017).

Denim Day started in the international outcry over a 1999 court ruling in Italy that suggested a woman could not be raped if she was wearing jeans because jeans are not possible to remove without consensual help from the woman.

The ''denim defense,'' or what Italian lawmakers called the ''jeans alibi,” triggered quick and angry debate. It prompted a group of female lawmakers in Italy to go on a “jeans strike, vowing to wear jeans to Parliament until the decision was changed.

In the 1992 case, an 18-year-old woman accused of her 45-year-old driving instructor in the small town of Muro Lucano, 60 miles from Naples, of rape.

The teen said her instructor drove her to an isolated spot, forced her out of the car and raped her. He contended the sex was in the car and consensual.

The man was convicted instead of indecent exposure in a public place, a lesser charge. Appealed to the Italian Supreme Court, the initial ruling was thrown out because the victim wore “very, very tight jeans” and by removing them, “it was no longer rape but consensual sex."

The justices subsequently overturned their decision.

Giggans and her organization, Peace Over Violence, developed the Denim Day campaign in response to the case and the activism surrounding it.

“Since then, wearing jeans on Denim Day has become a symbol of protest against erroneous and destructive attitudes about sexual assault,” she said.

“In this rape prevention education campaign, we ask community members, elected officials, businesses and students to make a social statement with their fashion by wearing jeans on his day as a visible means of protest against the misconceptions that surround sexual assault,” she said.

She highlighted increased legislative crackdowns and an increasing list of celebrities and others who have brought the issue of sexual violence, particularly on college campuses, into the spotlight.

The Hunting Ground, a 2015 documentary on college campus sexual violence that won critical acclaim, helped shed light on the problem, as did Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens To You,” written for the documentary and performed by her at the Oscars, Giggans said.

Former President Barack Obama’s 2014 initiative, “It’s On Us,” is another example, she said.

It was launched to make it clear all school districts, colleges and universities receiving federal funding they are legally obligated to prevent and respond to sexual assault and review existing laws.

It also created the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.

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