Santa Ana police wear denim to support victims of sex crimes


The Santa Ana Police Department encouraged officers to don denim for a day.

SAPD officers wore blue jeans to take a symbolic stand against sexual assault and promote awareness to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Denim Day, founded in Los Angeles in 1999.

“Denim Day serves as a powerful reminder of the prevalence of sexual assault and the importance of supporting survivors,” said Robert Rodriguez, the Acting Chief of Police. “By participating in Denim Day, a police department demonstrates solidarity with survivors of sexual violence and reaffirms its commitment to providing compassionate and effective support to those who have experienced such trauma.”

Part of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, Denim Day is staged annually on the last Wednesday of April.

Santa Ana Acting Police Chief Robert Rodriguez, Command Staff, and Special Crimes wear jeans on Denim Day to bring awareness to sexual violence victims.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

As founder Patricia Giggans explained in a 25th anniversary letter about the date, “Denim Day 1999 was a small rally in a downtown Los Angeles park. We invited people to show up wearing jeans to protest the myths that the clothing you wear invites rape and sexual assault, one of the many misconceptions and lies told about women and girls, and used as an excuse to blame them.”

Rodriguez said part of the value of the day “lies in reclaiming the narrative surrounding sexual violence” and to “reject the harmful notion that clothing choice or behavior can ever justify or excuse sexual assault.”

The significance of the fabric arose from an Italian rape trial in which the victim was blamed for her rape because of the type of jeans she was wearing.

In 1998, the Italian Supreme Court threw out a conviction of a 45-year-old driving instructor who had sexually assaulted an 18-year-old woman in 1992. In its ruling, the Court suggested the woman could not have been raped because it was impossible to remove the pants unless she had participated, and that made the act consensual. The finding that a woman’s choice of clothing was indicative of consent sparked outrage and protest.

Female members of the Italian Parliament protested by wearing jeans and holding placards that read “Jeans: An Alibi for Rape.”  The California Senate and Assembly later followed suit. However, it was not until 2008 that the Court in Italy finally overturned its findings and eliminated the “denim defense” for rape.

When the ruling by the Italian court was first announced in 1999, the country had only recently reclassified sexual assault as a felony, rather than a “moral crime,” according to a story on the ruling by the New York Times.

Prior to the late 1990s, Italy operated under fascist-era laws, “which viewed rape as a ‘crime of honor’ against the victim’s family,” according to the New York Times. “Among other things, under the old laws a defendant could avoid punishment by agreeing to marry the victim or proving that she had many other sexual experiences.”

Santa Ana Acting Police Chief Robert Rodriguez, Officer Johanna Lizardi, and the Special Crimes Unit wear jeans on Denim Day to bring awareness to sexual violence victims.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Since the inaugural Denim Day, the commemoration has grown to reach more than 100 million individuals in all 50 states and in more than 100 countries, according to Giggans.

“For us, wearing jeans on purpose on Denim Day was making a social statement with our fashion statement,” Giggans wrote. “At that time, we couldn’t imagine it would grow into this culturally relevant and longest running sexual violence prevention education campaign in history with impacts across the globe reaching millions each year.”

Rodriguez said for his department, Denim Day is about more than prosecuting offenders, it is also about reframing the approach to sex crimes.

“As the Acting Chief of Police, I am committed to fostering a culture that prioritizes survivor-centered and trauma-informed care approaches,” Rodriguez said. “This means ensuring that survivors are believed, supported, and empowered throughout the investigative and legal process. It also means holding perpetrators accountable for their actions and working collaboratively with advocacy organizations and community partners to prevent sexual violence and support survivors.”

The day also advocates against victim blaming and misconceptions that surround sexual assault.

“It is a reminder that we must continue to work tirelessly to dismantle rape culture, challenge victim-blaming attitudes, and ensure survivors are treated with dignity, respect, and compassion,” Rodriguez said.