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In Cases of Sexual Assault, Clothing Can No Longer Be Used as Evidence of Consent Under New California Law

Photo of the California State Capital.
Paul Sableman
Flickr Creative Commons
Photo of the California State Capital.

Under a new California law, the way a sexual assault victim is dressed can no longer be used as evidence of consent in a trial.

Assembly Bill 939, the Denim Day Act of 2021, was co-authored by Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes and signed by Governor Newsom on Oct. 5. Cervantes district includes the cities of Corona, Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, and the west side of Riverside. In my 11-minute interview with the assemblymember, she spoke of her motivations to write the bill and shared other bills she authored that Governor Newsom signed.

Assemblymember Cervantes wearing a green coat and LGBTQ Pride Mask Speaks in Support of HR 51 Declaring June as LGBTQ Pride Month.
Jeff Walters
Office of Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes
Assemblymember Cervantes speaking on the assembly floor expressing support of HR 51, which declared June as LGBTQ Pride Month.

In her press release, Cervantes says the bill fulfills the promise of Denim Day. She said, “AB 939 makes the principle behind Denim Day a reality in California by guaranteeing that clothing can never, ever, provide consent.”

Denim Day is a yearly event that is recognized around the world. The day was initiated as a reminder of a controversial 1998 ruling by the Italian Supreme Court. They ruled that the rape survivor consented to the actions based on the fact that she was wearing tight jeans. The ruling would go on to be overturned by the court in 2008.

Cervantes added, “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.”

Cervantes had three other bills she authored signed by Governor Newsom: AB-764, AB-746, and AB-1477.

Jonathan Linden was a reporter at 91.9 KVCR in San Bernardino, California. He joined KVCR in July 2021 and served with the station till October 2022.