Millions of people around the world Wednesday are recognizing the 20th annual Denim Day campaign to combat sexual violence, with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Denim Day founder Patti Giggans leading a rally and news conference at City Hall.
Peace Over Violence championed Denim Day in Los Angeles in 1999 as part of an international protest following the Italian Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the conviction of a driving instructor who had been found guilty of raping an 18-year-old woman during her first driving lesson in 1992.
The chief judge argued that “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.”
Women in the Italian Parliament began to wear jeans to work in protest of the ruling, and the movement has spread around the world since then.
Denim Day encourages people to wear jeans as a symbol of protest against sexual assault and raise awareness of misconceptions that surround it.
Garcetti — wearing a blazer, tie and jeans — recalled the first time he participated in Denim Day as a new member of the City Council in 2001.
“I wore jeans for Denim day, and we got a lot of calls to my office saying, `What is my council member doing wearing jeans on the city council floor? Where is the dignity, the respect? He’s supposed to be in a suit,”’ Garcetti said. “And each one of those outraged calls led to a conversation, which is the point.”
Garcetti also touted some of the city’s progress in fighting sexual violence, including a 12% reduction in rapes last year, and a 40% reduction this year.
Giggans spoke about her inspiration for the movement, which began in Los Angeles.
“I was inspired by this idea of infusing one of the most ordinary, mundane things one can do — put on a pair of jeans, throw on a denim jacket — and combine that with one of the most serious and yet silent traumas and crimes, sexual violence in all its forms,” she said. “Denim has become our social justice fabric where we make our social statement with our fashion statement.”
County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, City Councilwoman Nury Martinez and Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore also took part in the rally.
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