From Italy to the US: Court decision began international movement against sexual assault

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 24, 2018

By Spencer Dixon

Special to the Salisbury Post

Rome, Italy, 1992, an 18-year old girl is picked up by her married 45-year old male driving instructor for her very first driving lesson. She expected to learn where the brakes were, how to complete a three-point turn, and learn the ways of the road. However, her afternoon went much differently than expected.

Rather than stay on main roads, her driving instructor directed her to an isolated road. Once there, he pulled her out of the car, wrestled one leg of her jeans off and forcibly raped her for over an hour. Threatened with death if she told anyone, he made her drive the car back afterward.

That night, she bravely told her parents what happened to her. With the support of her family, the victim pressed charges on her driving instructor. He was apprehended, charged and, soon after, convicted of rape and sentenced to jail. After his conviction, the driving instructor appealed the decision claiming the two had consensual sex.

In 1998, the case reached the Italian High Court where the conviction was overturned “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,” said the chief justice. He continued, “It is a fact of common experience that it is nearly impossible to slip off tight jeans even partly without the active collaboration of the person who is wearing them.”

Enraged by the verdict, women in the Italian Parliament launched into immediate action and protested by wearing jeans to work. People all over the world were outraged and joined the Italian women’s protest by wearing jeans as well.

After the protest spread across the world, wearing jeans became an international symbol of protest against erroneous and destructive attitudes and myths surrounding sexual assault.

Every year on April 25, the protest continues as people around the world wear jeans to take a public stance against sexual assault. The annual protest is known as Denim Day.

The first U.S. Denim Day took place in Los Angeles in 1999. Patti Giggans, executive director of Peace over Violence, spearheaded the protest until the California Senate established Denim Day throughout the whole state. Since 2011, over 20 states ratified to officially observe Denim Day.

Now in 2018, over 2 million people in the United States wear jeans to protest the erroneous and destructive attitudes that perpetuate sexual violence and desensitize the public to the effects of rape and sexual assault.

If you want to take a stance against sexual violence, wear your jeans on Wednesday, April 25, to join the global protest.

If you are a victim of sexual assault, contact Family Crisis Council’s 24-hour crisis line 704-636-4718.

Spencer Dixon is the resource and media coordinator of Family Crisis Council of Rowan Inc. Family Crisis Council is a 501 c(3) and a member of the United Way.