PORT HAWKESBURY: Local residents put on their denim and took to the streets last Wednesday advocating for greater awareness of sexual violence.
The Strait Area Women’s Place (SAWP) hosted its second annual Denim Day march on April 25 to support survivors of sexualized violence and increase visibility for the issue.
“We need to change the conversation, and we need to take action. We take action by embracing our voice and not standing by and just letting these bad things happen,” said SAWP support worker Jessica Simms-Barss.
Simms-Barss said the yearly tradition of wearing denim on April 25 began in Italy in the 1990s after a sexual assault conviction was overturned.
“The defense argued that because the victim’s jeans were very tight, she must have helped remove them, therefore implying consent. In response to that, women in government in Italy the next day wore jeans to work,” she said.
Last week’s demonstration was the second Denim Day rally hosted by SAWP in Port Hawkesbury. In addition to the event last Wednesday evening, SAWP launched a social media campaign asking people to share their reasons for wearing denim.
“We’ve had great participation and support,” said Simms-Barss. “There was a lot of sharing and commenting. There have been supporters, survivors, and all sorts of different people participating in that campaign.”
Denim day takes place during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Simms-Barss said the statistics around sexual violence are sobering, and people need to speak up to let others know that sexual violence is not acceptable.
“One in three women is sexually assaulted and one in six men is sexually assaulted. So if you’re in a room with three people, there’s a possibility that one of them has been sexually assaulted in their lifetime. It affects a lot of people,” she said.
The gathering began at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre with several presentations including a reading by local writer Taylor Linloff of her poem “For Ladies Tired of Waiting.” Supporters then took part in a march down Reeves Street carrying hom
emade signs designed to raise awareness.
Simms-Barss said the event was designed as a peaceful gathering that was welcoming to everyone.
“It’s short so that people who have mobility issues can also participate because it is a family-friendly event. Women, men, children,
and dogs were all encouraged to attend,” she said.
She added that this type of community event is an important way for people to come together and show their support.
“A lot of progress has been made, but there’s still a lot of work to do around sexual violence and how we converse about that,” she added.