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In Italy in the 1990s, a 45-year-old driving instructor was accused of rape. When he picked up an 18-year-old girl for her first driving lesson, he sexually assaulted her, then told her that if she was to tell anyone he would kill her. Later that night she told her parents and her parents helped her press charges. The rapist was convicted and sentenced to a lesser charge of indecent exposure. The victim appealed, and he subsequently was convicted of all charges. The accused appealed to the Italian Supreme Court, which overturned the conviction in 1998 because the victim wore tight jeans. It was argued that the jeans were so tight that the only way to have gotten them off was if she had helped her attacker remove her jeans, thus making the act consensual ("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"). The Italian Supreme Court stated in its decision "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." As of 2008 the Italian Supreme Court has overturned their findings, and there is no longer a "denim" defense to the charge of rape.
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This ruling sparked widespread protest. The day after the decision, women in the Italian Parliament protested by wearing jeans and holding placards that read "Jeans: An Alibi for Rape". As a sign of support, the California Senate and Assembly followed suit. Inspired by these events, Patricia Giggans, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women (now Peace Over Violence), established Denim Day in Los Angeles in 1999. It has since become an annual, international event, involving over 12 million people around the world, according to Peace Over Violence. As of 2011, at least 20 U.S. states officially recognize Denim Day in April. Wearing jeans on this day has become an international symbol of protest against such attitudes about sexual assault.
- Maher, Sean. "Denim Day brings big push for sexual assault awareness", InsideBayArea.com. 23 Apr. 2009. Bay Area News Group. 26 Apr. 2009
- Denim Day Attempts Prevention and Awareness, Valley Star - Apr 29, 2009
- SAFE in Hunterdon's Denim Day, New Jersey Monthly - Apr 26, 2009.
- The Herald (Glasgow) archived.
- The Los Angeles Times archived.
- Alessandra Stanley, New York Times Feb 16, 1999 "Ruling on tight Jeans and Rape Sets off Anger in Italy"
- Faedi, Benedetta (2009). "Rape, Blue Jeans, and Judicial Developments in Italy". Columbia Journal of European Law. Archived from the original on August 28, 2011. Retrieved April 26, 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Italian court reverses 'tight jeans' rape ruling". independent. Retrieved 2021-01-23.
- "History of Denim Day". University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.edu. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
- "Denim Day Celebrates 20 Years of Advocacy for Sexual Violence Survivors". spectrumnews1.com. Retrieved 2020-05-26.