'Denim Day' Offers Chance to Stand With Victims of Sexual Violence Simply by Wearing Jeans
Blue jeans with messages challenging misconceptions about sexual violence, hung by the UCLA Clothesline Project, are seen on the University of California Los Angeles campus during Denim Day on April 21, 2004. David McNew / Getty Images file
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Get a good pair of jeans ready, on Wednesday they can make a big statement.
April 26 marks "Denim Day," a worldwide annual rape-prevention campaign that encourages anyone who stands in solidarity with sexual assault victims to put on jeans for the day.
Although the strategy may seem like an odd way of protesting, the movement began as a response to a 1999 Italian Supreme Court decision that overturned a rape conviction because the teenage victim wore "very, very tight jeans."
In the case, a driving instructor had raped an 18-year-old girl before her first lesson, but the Italian court said the encounter must have been consensual because the girl’s jeans were too tight to have been taken off by the attacker alone.
"She had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape but consensual sex," the court said.
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The ruling outraged women in the Italian Parliament who began wearing jeans to work to show the absurdity of the court’s logic.
The movement immediately went global with Los Angeles-based nonprofit, Peace Over Violence, organizing the campaign which is now in its eighteenth year.
"Our supporters stand together — wearing denim — to help end rape culture and to say emphatically that sexual violence has no place in our communities — 'not on my campus, not in my locker room, not in my workplace' — not anywhere," Peace Over Violence Executive Director Patti Giggans said in a statement.
Each year, there are over 300,000 victims of rape and sexual assault in the United States, according to RAINN the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization.
"Denim Day" will bring to light some of those stories, RAINN said on its website.
"What began as a simple act of protest — wearing our jeans to support a survivor in Italy — has become one of our most visible public education campaigns,” said Giggans. “We ask everyone to wear jeans on April 26 and stand with us to raise awareness about rape and to support survivors."
Safia Samee Ali
Safia Samee Ali writes for NBC News, based in Chicago.