By Leslie D. Rose
July 12, 1992: Pagliuca Rosa was an 18-year-old learning to drive from a reputable instruction company. When she dressed herself for the lesson, she wore a pair of jeans. What happened next lies to rest every “what was she wearing” myth ever – except it really didn’t.
Her instructor Carmine Cristiano drove her outside of the city where he parked; partially removed Rosa’s jeans by slipping one of her legs out and raped her. Seven years later the Italian Supreme Court overturned Cristiano’s rape conviction based on one item of Rosa’s clothing – her jeans.
Denim Day is the global movement that evolved from the infamous case.
Inspired by the global event, Baton Rouge’s STAR (Sexual Trauma Awareness & Response) will host its own Denim Day on Feb. 27 to encourage area agencies and advocates to wear their own jeans to show solidarity to survivors of sexual assault.
“Our goal in hosting Denim Day is to bring awareness to the issue of sexual violence and to encourage the community to support survivors,” said Angela Schifani, Administrative Coordinator for STAR. “Through this campaign, we also aim to raise funds in order to enhance and expand our services within the Capital Region.”
In compliance with Denim Day, companies are asked to allow their staff to wear jeans in exchange for a $2 donation to STAR. Last year, 12 local businesses and organizations participated. Schifani said that there are now four confirmed participants, with more expected. Already registered are I CARE, Baton Rouge Family Court, LSU Mental Health Services and City Year Baton Rouge.
Although the highlight of STAR’s Denim Day campaign will take place on Feb. 27, the organization is set to host an online campaign throughout the week (Feb. 23-27) using social media pages to spread information about sexual violence, rape culture and the prevention movement. The community is encouraged to join the conversation by using #STARdenimday along with posting photos of their participation.
According to data collected by STAR, on average 233,986 Americans age 12 and older are sexually assaulted each year, which equals an assault every two minutes. And of the victims, about nine out of ten are women, with overall 10% men.
But how does one day, $2 and a pair of jeans support the cause, really?
Schifani, who identifies as a feminist, spending much of her time researching, discussing and advocating for women’s issues, said simply it builds awareness.
“First and foremost, this campaign provides a platform for business owners and community leaders to show Baton Rouge residents that they care about the issue of sexual violence,” she said. “Secondly, it acts as a physical protest to the negative culture surrounding sexual assault survivors. In other words, it states that clothing can never substitute or supplement verbal consent.”
Schifani added that Denim Day helps Red Stick locals to familiarize themselves with STAR and the services they provide to sexual trauma survivors. STAR’s mission is to provide support, education, and advocacy to empower all individuals and families affected by sexual trauma, and to engage and mobilize the community to prevent sexual violence — in part through events like Denim Day.
Denim Day registration is available through BRSTAR.org.