PORT HAWKESBURY: Locals marched along Reeves Street to rally against sexual violence as part of Denim Day 2019.
Chants like “there is no excuse for sexual abuse,” and “whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no,” could be heard on Wednesday evening as passing cars honked to show their support for the event that coincides with Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Denim Day began as a response to a criminal case in which the Italian Supreme Court overruled the rape conviction of a man because the alleged victim was wearing tight jeans. The justices surmised that her jeans were too tight to be removed without her assistance and that it implied consent.
The ruling sparked controversy and many members of the Italian parliament wore jeans to work in protest the following day, prompting similar events around the world to tackle some of the myths around how and why sexual violence is perpetrated.
“The stats are one in three women and one in six men will experience sexual assault at one point in their life, which are pretty staggering statistics, so we want to raise awareness around that and we also want to show our support for survivors,” said Strait Area Women’s Place women’s support counselor Jessica Barss-Simms of Denim Day.
“Consent is something we should be talking about openly. It’s something especially as adults that we should be teaching our children, we should be modeling consent behaviour. If a child doesn’t want to give someone a hug that’s okay, they shouldn’t be made to feel uncomfortable and we need to respect when consent is denied,” said Simms-Barss, noting behaviour learned in childhood becomes second nature into adulthood.
As part of the event last week at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, Barss-Simms and fellow women’s support counselor Kelsey Clyke presented a “survivor fashion show.” Using quotes from survivors on the question of “what were you wearing?” at the time of the assault, the counselors aimed to fight back against the myth that clothing choices provide consent to sexual activity.
Before beginning the walk, the event also included words from Taylor Linloff, a spoken word poet and an autism advocacy speaker – who uses the on-line handle of Aspirational Autistic on Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites. Linloff performed a piece she wrote about sexual assault.
“We deserve a better future, we demand a better future and we are a better future,” Linloff said in conclusion.