Denim Day 2023: Standing Up Against Sexual Violence

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month — Learn about the compelling history of Denim Day, how sexual violence manifests in the context of abusive relationships, and how Sanctuary staff are taking action.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month a crucial time to rally together, educate ourselves about the harsh reality of sexual violence, and support survivors on their journey to healing. One of the most notable initiatives during this month is Denim Day, a global movement that transforms ordinary denim jeans into a powerful symbol of protest against sexual violence.

In this blog post, we’ll take a deep dive into the compelling history of Denim Day, explore how sexual violence manifests in the context of abusive relationships, and share our staff’s unforgettable experience participating in the NYC Denim Day March and Rally.

What is Denim Day?

Denim Day was born out of a desire to challenge and change a deeply flawed narrative surrounding sexual violence.

Sanctuary staff at the 2023 Denim Day March

In 1998, the Italian Supreme Court made a shocking decision to overturn a rape conviction. The justices argued that the victim’s tight jeans suggested she must have helped her attacker remove them, which they wrongly equated to consent. This outrageous ruling sent shockwaves through Italy and beyond, as it reinforced the damaging myth that clothing can determine responsibility for sexual assault.

Fired up and ready to fight back, women in the Italian Parliament staged a bold protest the very next day. They wore jeans to work in a defiant stand against the court’s decision and the misconceptions it perpetuated. This courageous act of solidarity soon blossomed into an international movement, with Denim Day now observed worldwide every April as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Sexual Violence Within Abusive Relationships

Sexual violence in the context of abusive relationships is a complex and often overlooked issue. Abusers often employ sexual violence as a weapon to exert power and control over their partners, using it to manipulate, degrade, and humiliate. It can take many forms, including rape, unwanted sexual contact, and sexual coercion.

Abusive relationships are characterized by a pattern of behaviors that are used to maintain power and control over the victim. This can include physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Sexual violence is just one part of this pattern of abuse, but it can have lasting and devastating effects on the victim’s physical and emotional well-being.

Sexual violence in abusive relationships is often not recognized or reported, in part because of the shame and stigma that surrounds it. Victims may feel trapped, isolated, and powerless to leave the relationship, particularly if they are financially dependent on the abuser or have children together.

Understanding the complex ways sexual violence presents in the context of abusive relationships is crucial to supporting survivors and dismantling the systems that perpetuate abuse. By recognizing these intricate dynamics, we can better advocate for survivors and work toward effective prevention strategies.

Watch our webinar to learn more:

At Sanctuary, We #WearDenim

On April 26, 2023, Sanctuary staff members united for a cause dear to our hearts—the NYC Denim Day March and Rally. We proudly wore our denim as we marched across the Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn Borough Hall to Foley Square, joining forces with fellow advocates, survivors, and supporters. Together, we raised our voices against sexual violence and domestic abuse, championing a culture of consent, respect, and safety for all.

Denim Quilt Project

As part of the efforts to commemorate Denim Day, Sanctuary organized a special art project involving staff, clients, and other community members.

We came together and decorated old pieces of denim with quotes and art to convey a variety of messages about sexual assault awareness. The denim squares were then pieced together into a quilt, resulting in a beautiful and meaningful symbol of the resilience and strength of survivors of sexual violence.

The completed quilt will be displayed at Sanctuary’s main office, where staff and clients can see it every day and draw inspiration from the stories behind each piece of denim. The quilt also serves as a reminder of the ongoing work needed to address sexual violence and support survivors.

This project is a powerful example of how creativity and community can come together to create something meaningful and impactful. It shows that even something as simple as a piece of denim can carry profound meaning and become a symbol of hope and healing.

You Are Not Alone: Resources and Services for Survivors

At Sanctuary for Families, we’re committed to standing with survivors every step of the way. Our comprehensive services include clinical, legal, shelter, and economic empowerment support, all tailored to meet each individual’s unique needs.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or sexual violence in New York, please reach out to our hotline at 212-349-6009 or visit our Get Help page to learn more about our services.

For support on a national level, you can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Let’s stand together, rock our denim, and create a world free from sexual violence and domestic abuse. We believe in a brighter future for all and won’t stop fighting until we get there.

Stand with survivors and support our work by making a gift today.


For Mother’s Day, A Gift of Hope

Celebrate a special mother in your life by helping mothers fleeing abuse. With your donation, Sanctuary will send a personalized Mother’s Day card on your behalf.

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and what better way to honor the special mothers in your life than by supporting survivors of gender violence?

This Mother’s Day, consider making a donation to Sanctuary for Families in honor of the strength and resilience of mothers everywhere. Your gift will provide critical services to mothers who are escaping violent homes and seeking safe and stable lives.

By making a donation, Sanctuary for Families will send a personalized e-card to a special mother in your life, letting her know that a donation has been made in her honor.


On behalf of all the survivors Sanctuary serves, thank you.

Learn more about how your gift transforms lives here.

Unlocking Your Legacy: Supporting Survivors Through Planned Giving

Debunking 5 common misconceptions about planned giving to help you create a legacy of compassion.

Did you know you can support Sanctuary’s mission and ensure its legacy by arranging a donation now to be allocated at a future date? You can accomplish this kind of planned giving in several ways, including making a bequest through a will or living trust or naming Sanctuary as a beneficiary of a retirement plan or life insurance policy. Sanctuary’s website provides a lot of valuable information about these planned giving options.

However, there are many misconceptions about what planned giving looks like—see below for some of the most common myths debunked.

Myth #1: Only wealthy people can make planned gifts.

Planned giving is for anyone who wants to impact an organization, regardless of their wealth. Many planned giving options are accessible to donors of all financial backgrounds.

Myth #2: Planned giving is only for older donors.

Anyone can make a planned gift at any age. Younger donors may find it beneficial to start planning their giving strategy early in life to maximize the impact of their philanthropy.

Myth #3: Planned giving is too complicated.

Our website has many resources available to help donors easily navigate the process, understand the options, and make informed decisions.

Myth #4: Planned giving means giving up control of assets.

There are options that allow donors to retain control of their assets during their lifetime, such as charitable remainder trusts and charitable lead trusts.

Myth #5: I have to talk to a lawyer about my planned giving decisions.

You don’t necessarily have to consult your lawyer before making decisions around planned giving. For example, you can designate Sanctuary to receive a portion of your retirement plan or life insurance policy. For more information on which charitable plan works best for you, visit the Sanctuary website and answer a few simple questions to point you down the right path.

Your legacy can shape Sanctuary’s future – visit our website to explore your options for planned giving and make a lasting difference today.

If you would like to talk to someone at Sanctuary about planned giving, please email Susan Puder at to schedule a convenient time.


Domestic Violence Often Causes Traumatic Brain Injury — Why Is No One Talking About It?

Survivors are at a high risk of sustaining TBI — often due to repeated head injuries — yet the rate of diagnosis is significantly lower than that of football players.

TW: This article contains descriptive information about physical violence. Please engage in self-care as you read this article.

While traumatic brain injuries (TBI) among athletes, particularly football players, have garnered much attention in recent years, a critical and underdiagnosed group has mainly gone unnoticed: domestic violence survivors.

According to the CDC, TBI is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States. Yet, the prevalence of TBI among domestic violence survivors remains a largely under-addressed issue.

Traumatic Brain Injury: Causes & Symptoms

TBIs are life-altering injuries — resulting from a blow or jolt to the head or from an object penetrating the brain tissue —that can severely affect an individual’s mental and physical health.

In the context of domestic violence, TBI can occur due to physical abuse such as hitting, choking, or slamming the victim’s head against a hard surface. TBI can also result from strangulation, a common form of abuse among domestic violence survivors.

The symptoms of TBI can vary depending on the severity of the injury, but they can include headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion, memory loss, and changes in mood or behavior. TBI can also result in long-term cognitive, emotional, and physical impairments that can devastate a person’s quality of life.

Domestic violence survivors who have experienced TBI may face additional challenges in recovering from their overall trauma. They may also require specialized medical care and rehabilitation services to address ongoing physical and cognitive impairments.

The Hidden Epidemic: TBI in Domestic Violence Victims

Survivors of domestic violence are at a high risk of sustaining a TBI, often due to repeated head injuries. Studies have reported a prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV)-related TBIs ranging from 19% to 75%, and as high as 100% in studies that only included survivors that reported injuries to the head.

However, the rate of TBI diagnosis among this population is significantly lower than that of athletes. This disparity can be attributed to several factors, including the stigma surrounding domestic violence that discourages survivors from seeking help. But this is also the direct result of a lack of awareness about the prevalence of IPV-related TBI among healthcare providers — When seeking emergency medical care, survivors of abuse are rarely screened for head injuries and TBI symptoms.

Furthermore, because of considerable symptom overlap, IPV-related TBI is often misdiagnosed as posttraumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) or personality disorders. According to a peer-reviewed article in Trauma, Violence, & Abuse,

If traumatic brain injury is not considered a consequence of interpersonal violence, a victim’s behavior can be misunderstood by people with whom the victim interacts, including health professionals. Misdiagnosis of brain-injured behavior as a personality disorder can result in lack of assessment of a physical problem underlying the behavior. So-called difficult clients who are perceived as being noncompliant, bothersome, or extremely impatient are unlikely to be referred for advanced treatment, including neuropsychological or neurological evaluation or rehabilitation.

When TBI goes undiagnosed in domestic violence survivors, they may not receive the necessary care and support to recover. Misdiagnosis can also lead to an increased risk for further injury and worsening of existing symptoms — untreated TBI can contribute to chronic pain, mental health disorders, and an increased risk for substance abuse and suicide.

Survivors Deserve Better

The underdiagnosis of TBI among domestic violence survivors is a pressing issue that demands increased awareness and action.

Earlier this month, the New York State Department of Health and Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence announced new efforts to raise awareness of the prevalence of traumatic brain injuries among survivors of abuse and the critical role proper screening can play in health outcomes.

Victim advocates, healthcare providers, and law enforcement officials need to be aware of the potential for TBI among domestic violence survivors. Early intervention and appropriate treatment can help minimize TBI’s long-term impact and support the survivor’s journey to healing.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, know that there are resources available. The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides confidential support and information 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

If you live in New York City, please get in touch with Sanctuary for Families to get help.


Banks, M. E. (2007). Overlooked But Critical: Traumatic Brain Injury as a Consequence of Interpersonal Violence. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 8(3), 290–298.

Kwako, L. E., Glass, N., Campbell, J., Melvin, K. C., Barr, T., & Gill, J. M. (2011). Traumatic brain injury in intimate partner violence: A critical review of outcomes and mechanisms. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 12(3), 115-126.

Manoranjan, B., Scott, T., Szasz, O. P., Bzovsky, S., O’Malley, L., Sprague, S., Perera, G., Bhandari, M., & Turkstra, L. S. (2022). Prevalence and Perception of Intimate Partner Violence-Related Traumatic Brain Injury. The Journal of head trauma rehabilitation, 37(1), 53–61.

Silver, J. M., McAllister, T. W., & Arciniegas, D. B. (2009). Depression and cognitive complaints following mild traumatic brain injury. The American journal of psychiatry, 166(6), 653–661.

Valera, E. M., & Kucyi, A. (2017). Brain injury in women experiencing intimate partner-violence: Neural mechanistic evidence of an “invisible” trauma. Brain Imaging and Behavior, 11(6), 1664-1677.