Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez, along with Mayor Eric Garcetti and other local officials, all donned jeans Wednesday as they stood on the steps of LA City Hall to observe the 22nd annual Denim Day in solidarity with sexual assault victims.
It was the second year during the pandemic where local officials shed light on an issue they say is intersectional, has many victims—not just women—and was only aggravated more by the stay-at-home order.
"Today, we wear denim in support of the movement launched by Peace Over Violence in response to an unjust court ruling in 1998," Martinez said, adding that they were there to stand with victims of sexual assault.
Denim Day was launched in LA by Patricia Giggans, the founder of Peace Over Violence, the first sexual and domestic violence agency in the country.
Giggans said people should "make a social statement with their fashion statement" on this day. She also warned of what's coming post-COVID.
"As we reenter whatever that new normal is, we must prepare for the PTSD, for stories and reports of violence, child abuse, batterings because we know that home is not safe for everyone," she said.
Giggans added that people must educate each other and understand that "without equity, we will never end sexual and domestic violence."
Tiffany Duvernay Smith, who now works for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, shared her story of survival.
"I believe in breaking patterns, cycles and chains, footholds, stronghold and chokeholds," she said as she held her fist in the air. "I am a survivor."
At the age of 33, she began a relationship with a man that would become her abuser. After being arrested and then referred to an organization that offers counseling, she was able to leave him and eventually became an advocate for those going through similar situations.
The first Denim Day event in LA was held in April 1999 after the Italian Supreme Court sparked outrage after overturning the conviction of a driving instructor prosecuted for raping an 18-year-old woman.
In 1992, the 45-year-old man drove the woman to an isolated location during her driving lesson and raped her. He was convicted but later appealed, arguing the encounter had been consensual. The court agreed, stating the victim was wearing tight jeans and had to help him remove them, and by doing so, she gave him consent.
Many were enraged by the verdict and protested on the steps of the Italian Parliament while wearing jeans.
Garcetti noted his wife worked with him early in his administration to ensure all police divisions had civilians who worked in a Domestic Assault Response Team, or DART, to help victims.
The mayor also stated that his proposed budget to the city council includes an additional $1 million for the city's Sexual Assault Response Team and DART.
He added that he and the city council saw a need for housing and launched Project Save Haven to increase the LA County shelters' bed capacity for survivors by 200% and housed 140 survivors a week during the pandemic.
"In over 10 months, we were able to offer safe temporary shelter to nearly 3,000 survivors and their families, including 1,300 children. It's simple — there is no place for domestic violence, sexual assault or harassment in Los Angeles," he said.
Peace Over Violence offers local emergency services, including hotlines containing information, support and advocacy.
Los Angeles hotlines
- Central Los Angeles 213-626-3393
- South Los Angeles 310-392-8381
- West San Gabriel Valley 626-793-3385
There also is a 24/7 confidential hotline if you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment while riding Metro.