It’s not everyday you see elected officials standing on the steps of City Hall in their jeans. New York City council members and borough presidents were joined by 100 others, clad in their finest dungarees for the third annual Denim Day NYC rally, an initiative to raise awareness about sexual violence. As a part of this year’s gathering, held on April 24th, undergraduate students from across the city were asked to submit opinion pieces for an essay contest, “Telling the Truth About Sexual Violence.” Denim Day organizers selected one winner from each borough; Lauren Peterson, a junior from Eugene Lang College, represented Manhattan.
While much of the proceedings at the rally focused on the empowerment and protection of women, Peterson’s op-ed was a bit different; she focused on the need for gender blindness. “Laws against sexual violence in New York City are very limited,” she said. “Many only see women as victims of rape. What about men? Or those who classify themselves as Trans?”
Peterson first learned of Denim Day after noticing flyers for the essay contest around the university. Upon researching the organization and the situation in New York, she became intrigued that gender played so little a role. “At The New School, we’re so gender inclusive,” said Peterson. “We tend to forget that there’s still a lot of stigma attached to it outside our campus.” In order to educate people on the lasting ramifications of sexual violence, she maintains, we must recognize that it is an issue that “haunts any gender.”
Denim Day is organized by Peace Over Violence, an L.A.- based non-profit. It launched the movement in 1999 in response to an Italian case where a judge overturned a rape conviction because the victim’s tight jeans implied consent. Held every year in April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Denim Day supporters wear jeans as an international symbol of protest against attitudes of ignorance or indifference to sexual assault. To learn more, click here.