The significance of Denim Day

“We are aiming for a bigger and better movement for sure next year.”

by Mira Reverente

A group of local women took to the streets on April 29th to highlight Denim Day, a worldwide movement that culminated in Italy, in 1992.

An 18-year-old girl was raped by her 45-year-old driving instructor. She reported the crime and the man was convicted and sentenced. Years later, he appealed the conviction claiming the sex was consensual. The Italian Supreme Court overturned the conviction and released the man. The Supreme Court contended that since the girl was wearing very tight jeans, it was consensual sex since she had to have helped him take them off.

This became known in Italy as the “jeans alibi.” The movement became known later on as Denim Day all around the world, bringing awareness to rape and sexual assault.

“Tight jeans is not consensual sex,” says Kelly Zirbes, a local activist and band singer from Oxnard. Zirbes led the nine-mile walk on April 29th with six other women, hoping to bring awareness to the cause.

Behavioral therapist Laurie Singer was also around to lend support to Zirbes and the movement. “I’ve seen some lonely and housebound people especially since the start of the lockdown – people with disabilities, for one,” says Singer, who practices in Oxnard. “They may be helpless, disconnected from others, living with their abuser and accepting assault or violence as the new norms.”

Sometimes, medical professionals such as Singer who are mandated reporters, are their only meaningful connections. “I make house calls if I have to. I don’t like to see any type of abuse,” she says.

On the community level, Zirbes is heartened by how the movement has taken off on college campuses. She remembers various types of denim hanging from clotheslines on some college campuses, and hopes to see more of this type of enthusiasm and support.

She says, “I think that is where we will be the most effective because it’s that age group of young women who may be preyed upon.”

Catchy slogans and marching women are effective too. Singer says, “People were honking at us, reading our placards and giving encouragement during our walk.”

Some have no idea what Denim Day is. “There’s still lots to do on the grassroots level,” says Zirbes. “Awareness is key.”

In the past, fundraisers have been held. The recent lockdown has put a damper on any large-scale ambitions, but there’s still next year.

“We are aiming for a bigger and better movement for sure next year, and hopefully beyond Ventura too” says Zirbes. “We need to get the word out for our daughters’ sakes and all the women in the world who may find themselves in the same situation.”

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