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Denim Day Act of 2021 Signed Into Law

For immediate release:

(SACRAMENTO) – Today, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 939, the Denim Day Act of 2021 by Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona). AB 939 fulfills the promise of Denim Day by removing an existing provision of law that allows the manner in which a survivor was dressed to be admitted as evidence of consent in a criminal case involving sexual assault, and thus makes it clear that clothes can never provide consent.

Denim Day is recognized every April around the world, including in our State Legislature, in remembrance of a controversial 1998 ruling by the Italian Supreme Court. The Court reviewed a criminal rape case and ruled that the survivor consented to a sexual encounter with the perpetrator simply because she was wearing tight jeans. The decision sparked outrage and protests around the world. The Italian Supreme Court overturned this ruling in 2008.

Before the enactment of this bill, California law actually allowed for a survivor’s manner of dress to serve as evidence of consent in a criminal sexual assault case when its admission would be “in the interests of justice.” This provision, which has been removed by AB 939, unfairly cast blame on survivors for the sexual assault they endured instead of blaming the actual perpetrators.

“AB 939 makes the principle behind Denim Day a reality in California by guaranteeing that clothing can never, ever, provide consent,” said Assemblymember Cervantes. “The enactment of the Denim Day Act of 2021 helps to create an environment in which survivors feel empowered to report any sexual assault that they endured. We must do all that we can to protect survivors when they seek justice and not make them face a criminal justice system that wrongly blames or re-traumatizes them.”

For every 1,000 survivors in the United States, only 230 actually report the sexual assault perpetrated against them. Out of these 230 survivors, only 80 have criminal cases that go to trial, and less than 5 will ever see their perpetrators serve any time in jail or prison.

This change to protect survivors is not without precedent. Indeed, both Florida and New Hampshire have laws similar to Assembly Bill 939. By enacting this bill, California continues to be a national leader in protecting survivors of sexual assault.

You can find more information about AB 939 here.

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Sabrina Cervantes is a mother who proudly represents the 60th District of the California State Assembly, which encompasses the cities of Corona, Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, Norco, a portion of Riverside, and the unincorporated communities of Coronita, El Cerrito, and Home Gardens. Cervantes serves as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy.