In Italy, in the 1990’s an 18-year-old girl was picked up by her married 45-year old driving instructor for her very first lesson. He took her to an isolated road, pulled her out of the car, wrestles her out of one leg of her jeans and forcibly raped her. Threatened with death if she tells anyone, he made her drive the car home. Later that night she told her parents, they helped and supported her to press charges. The perpetrator was arrested and prosecuted. He was convicted of rape and sentenced to jail.

He appealed the sentence and it went to the Italian Supreme Court. Within days, the case against the driving instructor was overturned, dismissed and the perpetrator 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”.

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. The call to action motivated the California Senate and Assembly to do the same, which in turn spread to the organization, Peace Over Violence, and Denim Day in LA was born. The first denim Day in LA was in April 1999, and has continued every year since.  For more information regarding this case visit the New York Times’ coverage. 

Denim Day provides awareness and symbolizes protecting people against sexual assault. In support of Denim Day, Community Referral Agency (CRA) is encouraging other businesses to allow their employees to wear jeans to work if they each donate $5 to CRA’s Denim Day campaign. Proceeds will be used to educate our communities on sexual assault awareness. For more information on participating in this day of recognition, please contact Community Referral Agency at 715-825-4414.

What can you do to get involved?

  • As an individual, model how a supportive relationship and its behavior can work—don’t be afraid to point out harmful attitudes and behaviors to others; challenge the societal acceptance of rape and sexual assault; share information on social media to educate, advocate and create change.
  • As a business, make sure you have policies promoting safety, respect and equality; train staff to report sexual harassment/assault, as well as, educate them on the warning signs; allow employees to participate in Denim Day, April 25th, 2018, to bring awareness to Sexual Assault Awareness Month—post pictures of your employees wearing jeans in support of Denim day on the Community Referral Facebook page (@crashelter)

What to do if someone you know is sexually assaulted:

  • If someone confides in you that they have been sexually assaulted, LISTEN.  It probably took a lot of courage and trust to share this with you.
  • Sexual assault is usually a crime of power over their victims that may stick with them for a long time. Abusers often threaten the victim or their families to keep them from reporting it to authorities.
  • Give your friend some options. Help him/her find medical, legal friends, family or counselors to help take back control in their lives. Let them know they may benefit from medical even if they won’t report it.
  • Remind them that NO ONE, regardless of friendship, relationship status or authority has the right to hurt them, no matter what.
  • Stand by your friend, believe in them and know that the path to reporting abuse is never easy. They will need you more than ever.

Did you know?

  • One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.
  • In the U.S., one in three women and one in six men experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • In eight out of ten cases of rape, the victim knew the perpetrator.
  • Eight percent of rapes occur while the victim is at work.

CRA has advocates available 24/7 to assist with crisis calls and is a temporary shelter for survivors of Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence and their children. For more information, please contact CRA at 715-825-4414. Their Crisis Line number is: 800-261-7233 and their Crisis Text Line is: 715-553-3359.

Submitted by: Joan Spencer, Development Director at Community Referral Agency

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