(article courtesy of The Mountaineer newspaper)
Members of the Haywood County Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Task Force, including Haywood Community College, are urging all community members, elected officials, county and state employees, students and teachers to “wear jeans with a purpose” on Wednesday, April 29, as a visible means to promote sexual violence prevention and education.
Denim Day in the U.S. and Haywood County is an annual campaign to raise awareness of sexual violence issues and support survivors of sexual assault as part of recognizing April as being Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
On this day, millions across the country will participate in the “There Is No Excuse” campaign and wear denim to address one of the major misconceptions about sexual assault, which is that what someone wears is an excuse for rape. This is a form of blaming the victim. Other misconceptions are if someone has had too much to drink and doesn’t really know what she/he is saying or doing, it’s okay to take advantage of the person.
Sexual assault and rape are crimes and there is no excuse and never an invitation to rape.
Denim Day, the national sexual assault awareness campaign, was first organized by a group called Peace Over Violence and it began in 1999 in response to something that happened in Italy the year before. The Italian case involved an 18-year old girl who was picked up by her married, 45-year old driving instructor for her lesson. He took her to an isolated road, pulled her out of the car, wrestled her out of one leg of her jeans and forcefully raped her.
Threatened with death if she told anyone, he made her drive the car home. Later that night, she told her parents, and they helped her and supported her to press charges. The driving instructor got arrested, was prosecuted, found guilty and sentenced to jail. He appealed the sentence. The case made it all the way to the Italian Supreme Court. Within a matter of days, the verdict against the driving instructor was overturned, the case dismissed, and the perpetrator was released.
In a statement by the chief judge, he argued, “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.” It was later interpreted that anyone who was wearing jeans could not prosecute an attacker for rape.
Enraged by the verdict, within a matter of hours, the women in the Italian Parliament launched into immediate action and protested by wearing jeans to work. This call to action spread around the world and has continued every year since.