LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Elected officials, survivors of sexual violence and other community leaders joined together in their denim and jeans on the steps of City Hall to proclaim Wednesday, April 26, “Denim Day in Los Angeles.”
Denim Day is the world’s longest-running sexual violence prevention and education campaign, organizers said. It recalls an Italian Supreme Court verdict that sparked international outrage when judges overturned a rapist’s conviction, arguing that because the victim wore tight jeans, she must have helped her attacker remove them, implying consent.
“We’re all here standing in solidarity today with one another to say there is no excuse for sexual assault,” said Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, who led and co-hosted Wednesday’s Denim Day kickoff. “There is no excuse for sexual assault or domestic violence and we know that this becomes an unfortunate cycle of violence toward women.”
The United Nations has indicated that globally one in three women become victims of sexual assault or domestic violence around the world.
“In Los Angeles, those numbers oftentimes devolve into various populations that we’re working to address that are living unhoused on the streets,” Rodriguez said, “because women that have experienced these traumas try to escape them.”
The councilwomen emphasized the need to normalize conversations with young people at an early age to put an end to what she described as an epidemic of violence against women.
“No other women should experience trauma and violence that are often unspoken,” Rodriguez said.
Patti Giggans — Denim Day founder and chief executive officer for Peace Over Violence, a sexual and domestic violence prevention center headquartered in Los Angeles — spoke alongside Lorinda Hawkins-Smith, a performer and survivor, and other survivors of rape and sexual assault.
“Denim Day is now in its 24th year and has become an international vehicle for promoting sexual violence prevention, prevention education and supporting survivors across the world,” Giggans said. “The first day was here in Los Angeles in 1999. The year of the now-infamous Italian court case.”
This year’s Denim Day campaign is “Let’s protect each other,” Giggans said. One way to be an ally, she said, is by cultivating and practicing qualities and characteristics that allow individuals to stand up for themselves, learn how to use their voices, learn self-defense and learn to set boundaries.
Another way is to intervene or interrupt a situation when needed.
“An ally listens, speaks up and supports the dismantling of rape culture,” Giggans said. “An ally says, ‘I see you and I am here for you.’ Let’s all strive to be allies and upstanders in our world by showing up together.”
City Council members Katy Yaroslavsky, Nithya Raman, Eunisses Hernandez, Heather Hutt, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, LA County District Attorney George Gascón, former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Juan Carlos Rodriguez Muñoz, consulate general of Mexico, also attended the news conference.
Hernandez said she is a “survivor of harm and violence.” She reiterated the need to prevent harm and violence and not just react to it.
“I hope that we can work together to continue to move this work forward, both on the community side but also here within our City Council and within our city government, with the creation of [the] Office of Victim and Survivor Services,” Hernandez said. “So that we can continue to put care-first models and policies forward to prevent harm and violence.”
Yaroslavsky added that sexual violence survivors are not a faceless group of people.
“They’re our colleagues, our sisters, our parents, aunts, brothers, friends and yourself,” she said. “No one is immune, and it’s up to each of us and all of us to work together to prevent it.”