Some wear red in February to show awareness for heart disease and pink in October for breast cancer. RAINN – the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network – along with its president, Scott Berkowitz, ask survivors and their support systems to sport jeans on Denim Day. Denim Day originated in response to a 1999 Italian court case in which a perpetrator’s conviction was overturned due to the fact that the victim had been wearing tight jeans and was deemed complicit in the crime. Protests spread to the U.S. and Peace Over Violence (POV) in Los Angeles, led by executive director Patti Giggans, turned it into a national event. RAINN and other organizations support POV’s work by organizing public awareness events on Denim Day each year.
Following the Italian court decision, outrage ensued around the world, with protests and awareness campaigns generated in order to draw attention to the defense and support of victims of sexual assault crimes. Since then, Denim Day has become a day when people wear jeans or other denim items in solidarity with sexual assault victims and their supporters.
Scott Berkowitz’s RAINN held a variety of wellness activities for victims and their loved ones. POV held an in-person event in Los Angeles, which also featured an arts and crafts station and a self-defense empowerment class, and a rally and press conference supporting Denim Day at Los Angeles City Hall. Similar programs were held across the country, with local municipalities demonstrating their support by holding rallies and events of their own to unite against sexual violence. One such event was held in New York City with a march over the Brooklyn Bridge sponsored by the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence.
For RAINN President Scott Berkowitz, Denim Day remains a time of awareness to encourage courts and communities to believe in survivors, underscoring the sentiment that consent and clothing are completely unrelated. Resources and assistance for victims have become more vital than ever before. “This is truly an issue that affects nearly every family in America,” explained Berkowitz. “Some consider it a women’s issue, but I don’t. Women are disproportionately at risk, but it also affects millions of men and kids.” To date, RAINN has assisted over 4 million victims, with the staggering statistic that an American is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds.
POV’s Denim Day organizers provide action kits that can help communities participate in raising awareness and support for survivors. In addition to wearing denim, buttons, stickers, and other products are available to help supporters demonstrate their commitment to sexual violence prevention. The organization also offers individuals the opportunity to take an online pledge of support not only to make a social statement but to help educate others and challenge false beliefs surrounding sexual assault crimes.
24/7, seven days a week, victims of sexual abuse crimes, along with their loved ones, can get support from RAINN. Playing host to the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-4673), as well as live web chat resources, RAINN believes in providing support to anyone impacted by sexual assault or abuse.
While RAINN continues to grow in response to the demand for support for sexual abuse victims, Berkowitz noted that while “the long-term hope is that an organization like this won’t be necessary … there’s always going to be a need for prevention and public education.” Denim Day is just one way that RAINN continues to demonstrate its commitment to victims and their loved ones. The nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization also actively advocates promoting protective and proactive legislation with a dedicated public policy team looking to improve outcomes for victims via the criminal justice system.
In addition, RAINN provides consulting services for public, private, and non-profit organizations across the nation in the form of training, assessments, education, and hotline services. While operating the National Sexual Assault Hotline, RAINN also works with over 1,000 local service providers to carry out programs and hotlines as channels for victims to receive help, including the US Department of Defense Safe Helpline.