Monday, April 18, 2016 VOLUME 18 ISSUE 63
April 11, 2016
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Victim Service Center of Central Florida

At the end of this month, Lui Damiani, Jr. and many of the people who work for him at the Victims Service Center of Central Florida are encouraging residents all across Central Florida to do something special – wear jeans for a great cause!

In a recent Orlando Sentinel article, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer encouraged city residents to join Denim Day, a worldwide event that dates back to 1992 in Italy.  It’s an event during which people are encouraged to wear jeans to help raise awareness of the plight of rape and sexual assault victims. 

When Damiani, a former member of the Orange County Commission, presented that idea to Orlando’s City Commissioners on April 6, the article continued, Mayor Buddy Dyer said he loved the idea. “I so love to wear jeans,” the mayor said.

But the whole point of Denim Day, Damiani noted, has nothing whatsoever to do with making a fashion statement.  The idea involves something else entirely: to provide a strong visual show of support for a very vulnerable part of society, the victims of sexual assault.

Additionally, TEAL is the universal color of sexual assault awareness. So, on Denim Day, we also ask Cities, Counties and businesses that have the ability to control their lighting, to light their fountains, parks and buildings in the color Teal.  This year we already have commitments to have the following locations lit in TEAL and the list keeps growing.  Committed so far: The Amway Center Spire, The Lake Eola Fountain in downtown Orlando, The Orlando EYE, All 5 Public Art Displays in the City of Orlando and The Orlando City Hall Tower of Light, Ruby Plaza at Kissimmee Lakefront Park … and the list keeps growing!  To date, Orange County Mayor Theresa Jacobs and Board of County Commissioners, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Osceola Chairwoman Viviana Janer have all joined us in support!

Damiani, the executive director of the Victim Service Center, noted that his agency was sponsoring a local Denim Day on Wednesday, April 29, as the final activity for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Craig Swygert, Chair of BusinessForce and Vice Chair of the Victim Service Center of Central Florida, has encouraged the Central Florida Partnership to participate as well, asking our members and investors to support this awareness effort in their workplaces all across the Central Florida Region. 

Denim Day was started in Rome in the early 1990s, after a 45-year-old driving instructor got accused of rape after he picked up an 18-year-old girl for her first driving lesson. The girl told her parents, and the man was arrested, tried and convicted.

In 1998, though, the Italian Supreme Court overturned the conviction because the victim had been wearing jeans, and the justices argued that because the jeans were so tight, the victim must have helped the attacker remove those jeans, making this a consensual sexual act.

There was a public outcry over that verdict, and women in the Italian Parliament protested by wearing jeans and holding placards that read “Jeans: An Alibi for Rape.” The California Senate and Assembly then showed its solidarity with the protestors and helped make Denim Day an annual event, one where people doing something as simple as wearing jeans were able to help protest antiquated attitudes about sexual assaults and rape victims.

Damiani noted that he also hopes to use this event to get the word out to the public about the vital services that are available through the Victim Service Center, a certified Sexual Violence Center serving Orange and Osceola counties, with the mission of providing comprehensive services and resources to victims of sexual assault and violent crimes.

That includes operating a 24 hour, seven day a week Sexual Assault Hotline, 407-497-6701, and a toll free Sexual Assault Hotline, 866-757-2046. The center has been operating since 1999.
“We provide a rape crisis center, 24/7 counseling, forensic exams, and long-term therapy,” Damiani said.

As part of these efforts, Dyer read a proclamation recognizing their work. “I now proclaim the month of April to be Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the city of Orlando,” Dyer said.

Orlando Sentinel – April 24, 2016 – by Michael W. Freeman, mwfreeman@sun-sentinel.com or 407-420-5290


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