From the Italian Supreme Court to the San Jacinto Valley
■ By Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Reporter
In 1998, an Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction because the 18-year old victim was wearing a pair of jeans. The perpetrator, a married 45-year old driving instructor, took the victim to an isolated road where he pulled her out of the car and forcibly raped her. The victim told her parents and she pressed charges. The perpetrator was convicted of rape and sentenced to jail. However, he appealed the case-–sending it up to the Italian Supreme Court-–where it was overturned “because the 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.”
Women in the Italian Parliament protested the decision by wearing jeans to work and the California State Assembly followed. This began the Denim Day LA & USA movement in 1999, led by Patti Giggans of the nonprofit Peace Over Violence in Los Angeles. Mt. San Jacinto College (MSJC) Diversity Committee sponsored the Clothesline Project on April 25 and 26, which started in 1990, to bring awareness to sexual assault.
At the April 25 Hemet City Council meeting, the Center Against Sexual Assault (CASA) was honored with a proclamation from the Hemet City Council declaring April as Sexual Assault Awareness month with April 25, 2017 as Denim Day and April 26, 2017 as Clothesline Project Day.
For MSJC Clothesline Project, people pinned different colored shirts, personalized with messages, onto a clothesline. The colors denote the type of crime committed: White is for murder or death as a result of violence; yellow, brown or beige are for assault or battery; pink, red or orange are for rape or sexual assault; green or blue are for child sexual assault or incest; purple or lavender are for homophobic violence; black is for gang rape; and jeans are for the misconceptions and injustice surrounding sexual violence.
In addition to the proclamation that same night, the city council also adopted an ordinance of “no-tolerance” for massage parlors violating the ordinance and in addition, requiring the posting of an anti-human trafficking sign within massage establishments.
The ordinance states: “A sign shall be posted in every massage establishment in a conspicuous place near the public entrance of the establishment, or in another conspicuous location in clear view of the public and employees, that conforms to the model anti-human trafficking notice promulgated by the Department of Justice pursuant to Civil Code section 52.6.”
Sex trafficking survivor Debbie Vena, who made the suggestion to council when the resolution was first presented in March, thanked the council for also including the “no-tolerance” language.
On the state level, California State Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-67) and Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-80) submitted Assembly Bill 27. On Assemblywoman Melendez’s Facebook page she states: “In California, not all rape crimes are considered violent. Yes, you read that correctly. The law currently considers rape of an unconscious or mentally disabled person as a nonviolent act. Rape is rape. There is nothing nonviolent about it.”
“When a criminal is convicted of a nonviolent felony, they are eligible to receive 50 percent off of their sentence.,” posted Melendez. “Now with the passage of Prop 57, they are eligible for an even earlier release and parole. This is why I am authoring legislation, Assembly Bill 27, to make all forms of rape a violent felony. Rape is a violent act and it’s high time our laws reflected that fact.”
On March 14, the bill passed the California State Assembly Public Safety committee with Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-20) as the lone vote against the bill.
As of April 26, the bill is in suspense file, meaning the bill or set of bills, with a fiscal impact, were set aside in Appropriations Committee by a majority of Members present and voting. These bills may be heard at a later hearing.