The History Behind Denim Day and How to Show Your Support

You may have heard that April 27 is Denim Day, but do you know why something as simple as wearing jeans can serve as a positive stand against sexual violence?

The idea for Denim Day, which is held annually during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), came from Italian activists as a direct response to a 1992 Italian Supreme Court ruling that held a victim liable for her sexual assault because she was wearing tight jeans when it happened. The court noted that because her jeans would have been difficult to remove, the victim must have complied in some way—in turn reversing the perpetrator’s sentence and letting him go free.

This “jeans alibi” as it came to be known is one of many injustices that victims of sexual violence have faced around the globe. In the immediate aftermath of the ruling, women in the Italian Parliament wore jeans outside of the Supreme Court as an act of protest. And 30 years later, Denim Day is when all of us can make a social statement by wearing jeans and spreading awareness about the ongoing problem of sexual assault.

Sexual Assault Awareness: Addressing Misconceptions and Realities

The Denim Day story reminds us of the uphill battle that victims of sexual assault often face in their pursuit of justice.

Sexual assault is defined as any sexual act performed without a person’s consent. It can be something as seemingly small as an unwanted touch, or something more violent, such as rape. The act of coercion can also take many forms, and may be physical, emotional, psychological, or based in threats.

There are plenty of misconceptions around sexual assault, including the one at the heart of the Denim Day meaning, which is that victims invite assault by the way they dress or act. This and other sexual assault misconceptions (such as that only women can be victims of sexual violence and that people claim sexual assault as retaliation for a bad sexual encounter) are inherently harmful and stand in the way of justice. By wearing denim on April 27, you help combat these misconceptions and spread much-needed awareness about the realities of sexual violence and why it’s an issue we should all pay attention to.

Sexual Assault Statistics

In the past 20 years, rates of sexual violence have fallen by half. However, we still have a long way to go in our understanding of and response to sexual assault.

Here are some statistics to know about sexual assault in the U.S.:

  • On average, there are 463,634 victims of rape and sexual assault each year in the US
  • 1 out of 6 women and 1 out of 33 men have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime
  • 80% of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim
  • Only 2.5% of sexual violence perpetrators end up in prison

Supporting Victims and Raising Awareness

Few among us have the power to enact real change to the way that sexual assault is treated and prosecuted in our justice system. But we do have the power to engage in the conversation around sexual violence and injustice by spreading awareness and showing direct support to those who have experienced sexual assault firsthand.

We encourage you to proudly wear denim on April 27, and to be vocal about the larger purpose behind your style choice. Other ways to get involved include raising funds for sexual assault advocacy organizations, donating to rape prevention services for survivors, and spreading the word about the realities of sexual violence. 

Seeking Help for Yourself or a Loved One

If you or someone you love has been a victim of sexual assault, please know that professional assistance is available. At Retreat Behavioral Health, we offer therapeutic services that help victims of sexual violence address their trauma and find a path forward, and we encourage you to contact us if you are in need of support. 

The National Sexual Assault Hotline is also available 24/7.