In Italy in 1992, an 18-year-old girl was forcefully raped by her 45-year-old driving instructor. After she pressed charges, he was convicted and then appealed the sentence. The case made its way to the Italian Supreme Court where, within a few days, it was overturned and dismissed, and the perpetrator was released.
According to the judge, “…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.”
Enraged women in the Parliament began to protest by wearing jeans to work and this statement of action spread to the US, beginning in California. Now, every year since 1999, Peace Over Violence has been organizing Denim Day in the US, asking people to wear jeans as a visible statement of protest against sexual assault and the misconceptions that often accompany it.
Victim blaming unfortunately still happens today. We hear it in the news, in undercurrents of conversations, on Twitter – everywhere. In the wake of the recent case of Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond convicted of raping their 16-year-old classmate in Steubenville, Ohio, countless reactions focused on the young girl and what she was wearing (among other things – how much she had been drinking, whether or not she had been friendly with the perpetrators) instead of on the actions of the two boys.
Even a media headline like “How drunk was too drunk to consent?” seems to frame a news story about sexual assault in a victim-blaming way, focusing on the actions of the victims instead of the actions of the perpetrators.
Wearing tight jeans (or baggy jeans, or no jeans, or anything) never implies consent.
Tomorrow, pledge to wear jeans on Denim Day and make a statement with your fashion statement. Commit to educating yourself and others about sexual violence. Talk to someone you know about what victim blaming is. Follow the hashtag #DenimDay on Twitter to see what events are taking place around the country.