It looked like “Casual Wednesday” at this week’s South Pasadena City Council meeting as the five members sitting on the panel were asked to wear jeans.
Instead, they were taking a stand – a stand against rape.
Councilmembers came decked out in the apparel in recognition of Denim Day, declared for April 24, in the city. The day is intended to draw attention to the fact that rape and sexual assault remain a serious issue in society.
More than 20 years ago, a 40-year-old driving instructor was convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage girl in Italy. “The Italian Supreme Court overturned that conviction based on the legal theory that the girl must have consented to the sexual assault because she was wearing tight jeans,” explained Chris Kung, a staff attorney at Peace Over Violence, to the council before accepting a proclamation on behalf of the organization. “And her tight jeans could only have been removed if she consented to sex.”
Peace Over Violence, which started 20 years ago, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to stopping sexual assault and domestic violence. “The outrage of this Italian case is the foundation for why we have Denim Day,” said Kung.
Recognized the last Wednesday in April, Kung says Denim Day is a reminder that “what you wear is not an excuse nor does it create an invitation to rape. We also ask you to wear your jeans on denim day in support of this common cause.”
According to the proclamation, every two minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted. Approximately one in five women are raped during their lifetime. Youths under 18 account for about 44% of all reported cases, at least 25% of women experience sexual harassment in the workplace and about 75% of harassment victims experience retaliation when they reported it.
Further, the proclamation reads: “Members of the South Pasadena City Council strongly support the efforts of Peace Over Violence to educate persons in our community about the true impact of rape and sexual assault in Southern California.”
Kung, a South Pasadena resident, said the organization will never stop the fight against sexual assault.
“As a community, we must always remember that we are united behind common principle,” he told the council. “We fight for these principles. We fight to stop domestic violence. We fight to stop sexual assault. And we will continue to fight.”