Legislators from across the state joined sexual assault advocates in recognizing Denim Day California today, an event in which participants wear denim to “break the dress code and speak out against sexual violence.” The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault CALCASA) hosts the annual Denim Day rally held today on the West steps of the state Capitol.
This year’s event found more than 100 participants taking part in the rally, with hundreds more inside and outside of the capitol sporting denim in their attempt to speak out against sexual violence. 17 California Legislators and dozens from Department of Health Services, Office of Emergency Services, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Secretary of State’s Office joined the rally. Speaking at the event were:
Secretary of State Debra Bowen
Senator Carole Migden
Senator Patricia Wiggins
Senator Sheila Kuehl
Senator Jenny Oropeza
Senator Mark Ridley Thomas
Assemblymember Patty Berg
Assemblymember Todd Spitzer
Assemblymember Bill Maze
Assemblymember Doug LaMalfa
Assemblymember Fiona Ma
Assemblymember Betty Karnette
Assemblymember Mark Desaulnier
Assemblymember Loni Hancock
Kicking off the event was keynote speaker, Laurie Dishman, a Sacramento local who survived a brutal sexual assault while aboard a cruise ship in 2005. Her testimony moved the crowd as she explained: “A woman never, ever asks to be sexually assaulted. We must stand up and speak out against sexual assault for those who cannot speak out and for those who have but were not heard.” Laurie recently returned from providing testimony to the US Congress in regards to her experience. Dishman has since become an outspoken survivor working with both State and Federal organizations to help educate policy makers on the importance of victim centered sexual assault legislation.
The event was sponsored in part by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. Caucus Chair, Patty Berg, added: “Laurie’s story is moving, and that is just one example of why we are all here. We need to continue to work to end sexual assault.”
Denim Day events are held throughout the nation in an effort to raise awareness about sexual violence and highlight the myths that are so prevalent around this crime. In 1998, an Italian Supreme Court overturned the verdict of a convicted rapist because the 17 year-old victim “wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them…and by removing the jeans…it was no longer rape but consensual sex.” Within hours, women from the Italian Parliament showed solidarity in outrage over the decision by breaking the dress code and wearing jeans to work.
Referring to the advancements in efforts to combat sexual violence, CALCASA’s Executive Director, Suzanne Brown-McBride notes: “We have come a very long way in serving victims of sexual violence, but our work is not finished. Together, we have a long way to go.”
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and throughout the state, rape crisis centers are hosting activities to organize their communities to address rape and sexual assault. Adds Brown-McBride: “It’s clear that rape and sexual assault impact California in dramatic and meaningful ways. Together, we must raise our voices, speak out, and help end this serious problem in our society. We urge people to join us as we Speak Out Against Sexual Assault during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.”