Denim Day highlights sexual assault awareness month

    Kelsey Clyke (left), Tammy Bennett (centre), and Jessica Simms-Barrs were all decked out in their denim as part of the Strait Area Women’s Place annual Denim Day.

    PORT HAWKESBURY: The Strait Area Women’s Place hosted its annual Denim Day on April 27; a day that is marked to help sexual assault survivors combat trauma and raise community awareness.

    During the gathering, which started with a group of about 20 and grew to almost double in size, representatives with the Strait Area Women’s Place advised Denim Day started in the late 1990s after a rape conviction was overturned in Italy.

    “The campaign began after a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans she must have helped the person who raped her remove her jeans, thereby implying consent,” Women’s Support Worker Kelsey Clyke told The Reporter. “The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim.”

    Today, people all across the globe wear denim as a symbol of protest against sexual assault.

    Clyke advised Peace Over Violence developed the Denim Day campaign in response to this case and the activism surrounding it, and what has happened since has been a local campaign to bring awareness to victim-blaming and destructive myths that surround sexual violence has grown into a worldwide movement.

    As the Strait Area Women’s Place has made strides in raising awareness, supporting survivors of sexual assault and activating social change, the trauma from sexual violence is often difficult to discuss or disclose.

    “Because of the difficult nature of the trauma, things do not get reported, perpetrators walk free, victims get blamed, and support for them is lacking,” Clyke said. “Raising awareness decreases stigma and reminds survivors they are not alone and as a community. We demonstrate that we stand with them and support them.”

    The organization has been holding the event for multiple years, hosting different activities to increase community engagement and bring attention to sexual assault throughout the Strait area.

    “The motivation comes from advocating for our client’s needs,” Clyke said. “The event is not intended to celebrate, the event is intended to empower and support victims of sexualized violence, raise awareness and educate the community.”

    As for how society is handling the education of sexualized violence, the local advocate advised there is always more that can be done.

    “We recognize a significant need for further education for our youth,” Clyke said. “There needs to be more done to educate and raise awareness among our youth about consent and sexualized violence.”

    Photos by Drake Lowthers
    Women of all ages, including a group of students from SAREC, attended the Strait Area Women’s Place annual Denim Day rally at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre on April 27.