Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings holds a proclamation for Denim Day 2023 standing in between two representatives from Victim Service Center of Central Florida.

Victim Service Center Promotes Denim Day, Spreads Awareness About Sexual Assault

Public Health & Safety

Mayor Jerry L. Demings recently declared Wednesday, April 26, 2023 as Denim Day and is urging Orange County residents to wear jeans to help spread awareness about the physical and emotional trauma that accompanies sexual assault and to show support for survivors in our community.

The Denim Day movement started in 1999 as a grass-roots protest against a controversial Italian Supreme Court decision, in which a sexual assault conviction was overturned because the victim was wearing tight jeans at the time of her attack. It is the longest-running sexual violence prevention and education campaign in history, seeking to rid the world of erroneous and destructive attitudes about sexual assault and bring about real justice and support for survivors.

“The statistics are shocking,” said Lui Damiani, executive director of the Victim Service Center of Central Florida. “One in five women, and one in 33 men, will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. It’s a serious issue, which is why we offer the services we do.”

Victim Service Center of Central Florida is the Certified Rape Crisis Center in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties. It serves all victims of sexual assault, violent crime and traumatic circumstance through free and confidential crisis intervention, therapy, advocacy and outreach. To honor victims of sexual assault, Victim Service Center champions #DenimDay in Central Florida and encourages local businesses, organizations, schools and individuals to wear jeans.

“The Denim Day story resonated with us, so we decided to make that our local event to champion in 2014,” said Damiani. “People take photos wearing denim and put them on social media, and this goes viral. Businesses, government agencies and residents all align themselves and take a moment to draw awareness to sexual violence. This year we’re having a dance contest for best video. It’s fun, and it draws attention to a worthy cause.”

The VSC runs a 24-7 Help Line and provides immediate crisis response on site and in person with a crisis counselor and a forensic nurse to collect DNA evidence if the victim chooses to have this done. Last year, this happened 326 times, and VSC responded on site within 26 minutes in each instance.

“Often, the assault didn’t just happen, so people call for counseling and/or therapy support or to get information,” explained Damiani. “Last year we helped 6,700 people for various traumas.”

VSC has outstanding relationships with governmental partners and law enforcement in many jurisdictions, including with Orange County. When someone is assaulted, rather than taking them into crowded, cold emergency rooms, they are instead brought to the Center’s confidential safe house where they are greeted by trained professionals, given medical support, a warm shower, fresh new cloths, crisis counseling and a sympathetic shoulder to cry on. The goal is to take victims directly to VSC to immediately start the healing process. The only reason a victim should end up in an ER is if the extent of their physical injuries is severe.

“Orange County funds us through a grant to have the infrastructure to do this work,” explained Damiani.  “Plus, it funds training and awareness programs as well. It saw the need for this and hired us to do the prevention work. Mayor Demings has been a tremendous supporter and saw our value, and we’re grateful for that.”

The key, says Damiani, is that we’re even telling the story, because by virtue of having this story told, we can normalize the conversation. For this Denim Day, he urges everyone to get involved.

“We want everyone wearing denim on Wednesday, April 26 to draw awareness to sexual violence and stand in solidarity with its victims.”

To learn more about VSC and how to get involved, go to #DenimDay. The help line is 407-500-HEAL.

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