Zonta Club of Kauai speaks out against sexual assault on Denim Day

On 28 April 2021, elected officials, state and county employees, businesses, survivors, groups and students in Hawaii, USA, wore denim and joined together to help, support and believe the survivors of sexual assault.

“Today we join millions of people across the world in wearing jeans with a purpose — supporting survivors and educating ourselves and others about all forms of sexual violence,” said Governor David Ige in his proclamation delivered by his Kauai liaison Carrice Gardner Gardner.

“We at the YWCA are happy to stand with the Zonta Club on Denim Day to spread the message that what a woman is wearing or not wearing has no relevance to sexual violence,” said Renae Hamilton-Cambeilh, YWCA executive director. “By continuing to focus on the victims’ behaviors — what was she wearing? Was she drinking? Etc. — we shift the responsibility for sexual violence onto the victims instead of holding offenders accountable for their actions. For too long, incorrect cultural norms have led to victim-blaming, which enables sexual assault to continue in this country. To really move the needle toward ending sexual assault, victim-blaming and long-standing myths and misconceptions must end. We hope this event helps to bring awareness and long-lasting change.”

“We stand here today to support women and men who have survived sexual assault, and support their continued healing,” said Lori Benkert, president of the Zonta Club of Kauai. “Denim Day grew out of a 1998 Italian Supreme Court decision that overturned a rape by a 45-year-old man who was the driving instructor of an 18-year-old girl because she wore tight jeans. The court ruled that the jeans were too tight to be taken off without help, so it was considered consensual sex. Enraged by the verdict, within a matter of hours people all over the world were outraged, and wearing jeans became an international symbol of protest against erroneous and destructive attitudes and myths surrounding sexual assault.” 

“There is no excuse in a woman being sexualized, harassed or assaulted because of her physical appearance, status or sexual identity,” said Melody Lopez, Zonta club member. “All women should be treated with dignity and respect. At Catholic Charities Hawai‘i, advocacy for social justice is part of our mission and core values. We believe that social justice calls us to be a community of hope that works to achieve the common good, promotes individual rights and responsibilities, and advocates on behalf of those with the greatest need. That includes the protection of those who may not have a voice, including all victims of sexual violence.”