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Denim Day Demands Action

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Allegany County Commemorates National Denim Day

County Super Hero Shannon Ozzella, Director of the Allegany County District Attorney Victims Advocate Office, organized a peaceful demonstration on the steps of the county courthouse last week. Here is her report on the symbolism behind Denim Day:

Allegany County employees and state employees and members of the community met on the steps of the county courthouse Wednesday, April 28, 2021 to wear denim in support of National Denim Day.

Denim Day grew out of a 1998 Italian Supreme Court decision that overturned a rape conviction because the victim wore tight jeans.  In 1992 the victim, then 18 years old was going to her first driving instruction and the 45 year old married driving instructor took her to an isolated road, pulls her out of the car, wrestles her out of one leg of her jeans and forcefully rapes her.  Threatened with death if she tells anyone, he makes her drive the car home.  Later that night she tells her parents, and they help and support her to press charges.  The perpetrator was arrested and prosecuted.  He was convicted of rape and sentenced to prison.  He appeals the sentence and the case makes its way all the way to the Italian Supreme Court.  Within a matter of days the case against the driving instructor is overturned, dismissed, and the perpetrator released.  In a statement by the Chief Judge, he argued “because the victim wore 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.  This call to action motivated and emboldened the California Senate and Assembly to do the same.  People all over the world were outraged, and wearing jeans became an international symbol of protest against erroneous and destructive attitudes and myths surrounding sexual assault. 

The first Denim Day, organized by Peace over Violence in Los Angeles was in 1999 and since has grown into a national movement that have seen millions of people across the world wear jeans on the last Wednesday in April. 

Sexual violence is difficult to discuss and often goes unmentioned.  But in America nearly one in two women and one in five men have experienced some sort of sexual violence, including forced penetration, sexual coercion and unwanted sexual contact.  Young people are at the highest risk.  It is estimated that one in four girls and one in six boys have had unwanted or abusive sexual experience in childhood. 

Help is available.  If you or anyone you know is a victim and would like assistance please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or for Allegany or Cattaraugus County, please call Community Action 24 hour toll free hotline at 1-888-945-3970.

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