Wearing denim today sends message against sexual violence, group says

While wearing jeans to work for casual day is a common thing, wearing jeans to work on a particular day in late April to protest against sexual violence is an international movement now being recognized in New Brunswick.

Staff at the New Brunswick Association for Community Living were participating in Denim Day on Wednesday for the first time and wearing stickers that say "Ask me why I'm wearing denim today."

Development co-ordinator Elizabeth Kearns said it's a good way to get the conversation started about consent and to honour victims of sexual violence.

Denim Day started in 1996 after after an Italian Supreme Court decision involving an 18-year-old woman. The man convicted of sexually assaulting the woman saw his conviction overturned because the court felt the girl's jeans were so tight she must have helped remove them, and therefore been consenting. Women in the Italian Parliament wore jeans to work in protest.

Shocking statistics

Kearns said the day is important to the Community Living group because girls and women with disabilities are 10 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other girls and women.

Boys and men are four to 10 times more likely to be sexually assaulted.

"I was shocked when I first read those statistics," Kearns said of the 2007 report.

"People who have an intellectual disability are definitely vulnerable but I had no idea that the numbers were so high."

The report said that during their lifetimes, 83 per cent of women and 40 per cent of men with intellectual disabilities are sexually abused.

Kearns said keeping the conversation going is important, and Denim Day helps with that.

"It creates the awareness of Canadians who have an intellectual disability who are victims of abuse."

Kearns said she hopes more organizations take part in Denim Day in the future to help raise awareness about the issue and the importance of consent.

"There are many different populations in our province who would be susceptible or victims of sexual violence," she said. "It's a great way to start a conversation and the more people are aware, hopefully the risk will reduce."