A Perfect Fit 

Why Denim Day means so much to the WCA

It's as simple as throwing on a pair of jeans—literally. That said, advocates at the Women's and Children's Alliance say Denim Day, which this year will be Wednesday, April 25, is a perfect fit for their mission to raise awareness of the danger of sexual assault.

The worldwide campaign started in 1992, when an 18-year-old Italian woman was picked up at her home by a middle-aged driving instructor her parents had hired. The male instructor drove the young woman away from her town, raped her and threatened to harm her family if she told anyone. The victim eventually told authorities, but the rapist's conviction was overturned by the Italian Supreme Court because the victim had worn tight jeans. Following the ruling and the freeing of the rapist, a number of women, all wearing jeans, staged a protest at the Italian Parliament.

"It's one of the most 'good/horrible' stories I've ever heard," said Chris Davis, WCA Communications Manager. "A young woman was with someone in a position of trust, and he completely violated and threatened her. They let him go because of what she was wearing."

The WCA began observing Denim Day in 2014. Since then, the nonprofit organization has designed several posters, stickers and ribbons—all available on its website—that promote the event, and it has received an influx of orders, many coming from outside Idaho, for the promotional items. Davis praised the amount of local support for the event, including from some high-profile Idahoans.

"We've just heard that this year, a number of branches of the the National Guard are participating, so they'll get to wear jeans on [April] 25th, Davis said. "That takes a lot, for National Guard Adjutant General [Michael] Garshak and Governor [C.L. "Butch"] Otter to sign a formal memo saying to the Guard [that] they can leave their uniforms at home on that day."

The WCA is encouraging the public to participate in Denim Day as a way to facilitate conversations surrounding sexual assault, harassment and victim-blaming. Davis said although sexual assault is still a topic people shy away from addressing, related issues have edged into the limelight in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

"All of us really need to be focusing on the dangers of victim-blaming," she said.

To keep the dialogue relevant, the WCA listed a few ways to spread awareness, including talking about Denim Day at work, at home and on social media using the hashtags #DenimDay and #WCABoise.

"I heard the best quote the other day from Elizabeth Smart," said Davis, referring to the author who visited Boise on April 5, and was herself a victim of kidnapping and rape. "Elizabeth said, 'It doesn't matter if a victim is a prostitute, it doesn't matter if she's a waitress, it doesn't matter what she does for a living, it doesn't matter if she's out late drinking—nobody wakes up in the morning and wants to be raped. Nobody plans on doing that, and nobody deserves that.'"

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