BOSTON (SHNS) – After dozens of lawmakers wearing denim jeans and jackets posed for a group photo on the State House’s Grand Staircase Wednesday, Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier dispelled the idea that their casual attire was merely “a day off from our fancy suits.”

Rather, the denim apparel — sported by Gov. Maura Healey, Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll, Senate President Karen Spilka, Treasurer Deb Goldberg and Treasurer Diana DiZoglio, among other representatives and senators — served a “serious purpose” to commemorate Denim Day.

The denim symbolizes the Italian Supreme Court’s decision in 1992 to overturn a rape conviction, arguing an 18-year-old student driver had consented to having sex with her 45-year-old instructor during a lesson. It was not rape, the Supreme Court reasoned, because the student “was wearing very tight jeans” and “she would have had to help him remove them,” Farley-Bouvier said.

“The logic is mind-boggling,” Farley-Bouvier said. “Following the ruling, women in Italy protested it, and it’s expanded globally to become what is known as Denim Day. Today we, we all, wear jeans to show that what you are wearing, ever, does not mean consent, ever.”

The Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators and its Sexual Violence Task Force hosted the ceremony. Farley-Bouvier, co-chair of the task force alongside Rep. Natalie Higgins, urged attendees to believe survivors and ask how they can provide support, as well as learn about their local rape crisis centers.

Higgins, who in college trained to become a rape crisis counselor, got choked up as she recalled being sexually assaulted in her second year of law school. Despite “knowing all of the right things to do” for her clients, Higgins said it took her 12 hours after regaining consciousness to “accept what happened,” contact family members and go to the hospital.

“I am someone with a lot of support and resources, and it still took me a whole lot of time to come to terms and do what was right for me,” Higgins said.

Healey read a proclamation recognizing April as Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Month, and emphasized the importance of ensuring survivors receive support and assistance. Healey also applauded survivors’ bravery in sharing their stories, saying it “helps us do the work that we need to do and drafting the law and policies, and enforcing laws and policies that need to be enforced.”

More than 463,000 people ages 12 and older are raped or sexually assaulted each year, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. And one in every six women have experienced attempted or completed rape, according to RAINN.

State data from 2017 show that 18 percent of women and 6 percent of men have experienced sexual assault. Between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017, there were 2,100 sexual assault incidents reported to state-funded rape crisis centers. More recent data was not available Wednesday.

Senate President Karen Spilka said acknowledging survivors is “critically important.”

“But I am looking forward to the day when we no longer need to have Sexual Assault Awareness Month because of all your successes, it just doesn’t happen anymore,” Spilka said. “So let’s look forward to that.”