LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles leaders and advocates of victims of sexual violence gathered on the steps of City Hall April 26 to bring awareness to Denim Day, an annual campaign to challenge myths that excuse rape and sexual assault.
Peace Over Violence, which works to combat sexual and domestic violence, championed Denim Day in Los Angeles in 1999 as part of an international protest following the Italian Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a rape conviction. The victim wore tight jeans, which the justices reasoned the suspect couldn’t have removed without her help.
Women in the Italian Parliament began to wear jeans to work in protest of the ruling, and the movement has spread around the world since then.
“Putting on a denim jacket or jeans is an act of solidarity,” said Patti Giggans, executive director of Peace Over Violence and the founder of Denim Day. “People all over the world are dressed in solidarity today with a consciousness that sexual violence is endemic and that it’s in the DNA of our cultures. We are making progress, but we are far from done.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti, wearing jeans and a sport jacket with no tie, recalled a previous Denim Day when he was on the City Council and heard from a handful of constituents who complained that he was dressed too casually after seeing him wearing jeans on TV.
“[Sexual violence] is on our blocks. It’s in our workplaces, it’s in our families,” Garcetti said. “And so our work is about making sure there is no stigma and no shame about talking about it and about getting help.”
Councilwoman Nury Martinez, the only female member of the City Council, opened her remarks by bashing President Donald Trump and former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who was fired by the network recently after multiple allegations of sexual harassment against him surfaced.
“Donald Trump, who I call `Grabby,’ tells the world that it is OK to sexually assault women. Donald, it’s not OK,” she said. “Bill O’Reilly got fired because he sexually harassed women, but tried to paint himself as a victim. Bill, you are not a victim.
“But what either of these powerful men do in the shadows pales in comparison to the influence that they have over others,” Martinez said. “Both of them have huge platforms and use them to declare that sexual violence is simply a joke to them, and these powerful men give license to others.”
In West Hollywood, city employees, members of the City Council and representatives from the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station hosted an event to raise awareness about rape and sexual assault.
In West Hollywood, Denim Day is recognized each year by the city’s Public Safety Department in the spirit of uniting against sexual assault, to break the silence about sexual violence and to stand in support of survivors.