Sporting their finest denim attire, students, faculty and staff assembled on the Student Resource Building Patio on Wednesday to support rape victims at the Jeans for Justice Rally.
In 1998, a man in Italy was convicted of raping a woman. However, after appealing his conviction to the Italian High Court in 1999, the accused rapist was found innocent and the conviction was overturned. The High Court found the accused not guilty on the grounds that the “victim” had been wearing denim jeans.
“It is common knowledge…” a transcript of the court’s decision said,”that jeans cannot even be partly removed without the effective help of the person wearing them…and it is impossible if the victim is struggling with all her might.”
According to Ethan Hartsell, a fourth-year communication major, Jeans for Justice is an internationally recognized campaign that was created in response to the 1999 reversal of the rape conviction.
The rally urged staff and students alike to partake in the international campaign by wearing jeans. Sponsored by the UCSB Women’s Center and the Office of Equal Opportunity, the rally aimed not only to remember the overturned court decision, but also to show support for sexual assault survivors.
Hartsell said that although Jeans for Justice was inspired by the 1999 Italian court decision, the event is emblematic of more than the decision alone. Hartsell said the rally stands to encourage victims and survivors.
“[Jeans for Justice] is a way to show support and raise awareness about victim blaming,” Hartsell said.
Michelle Emery, a staff member at the rally, said the open telling of stories of sexual violence works to actively eliminate myths surrounding rape.
“Entire communities are responsible,” Emery said. “So many people know about rape or hear about it, but we need to get rid of all the silence.”
The rally included refreshments, as well as tabling from various organizations such as the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center and the Rape Prevention Education Program. The rally also featured Joyce Dudley, senior deputy district attorney of Santa Barbara County, as a guest speaker. Dudley urged the UCSB community to support rape survivors on an individual and communal level.
Rape victims, Dudley said, often blame themselves. An understanding community must be fostered, she said, to dispel such myths.
“If our community is to remain just,” Dudley said, “Then you must ensure that justice remains.”