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City of New York Joins Survivors and Advocates in Commemorating Denim Day NYC To Raise Awareness Around Sexual Assault

April 27, 2016

Administration leadership, elected officials join in international day of awareness around sexual assault, consent, victim blaming

Office to Combat Domestic Violence offers services and promotes education, prevention and awareness through Family Justice Centers, Healthy Relationship Training Academy and agency Training Institute

NEW YORK—Today First Lady Chirlane McCray and Office to Combat Domestic Violence Commissioner Cecile Noel stood with Denim Day NYC organizers Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer at the steps of City Hall alongside other senior Administration leadership, local elected officials, advocates and survivors on Wednesday to raise awareness about sexual assault and the City’s resources for victims and survivors in honor of the fifth annual Denim Day NYC.

Starting in Los Angeles in 1999, cities across the country commemorate Denim Day, which refers to a 1998 Supreme Court case in Italy in which a rape conviction was overturned because the judge reasoned the victim’s tight jeans meant that she had to have helped her assailant remove them, implying consent. The case sparked outrage among survivors and advocates, and wearing jeans became an international symbol of protest against erroneous, destructive attitudes and myths surrounding sexual assault. Denim Day NYC started in 2010 with the collaboration of three agencies, including OCDV, and has grown into a coalition of more than 40 agencies, community groups, elected officials, students and volunteers united to promote awareness around sexual assault.

“Despite generations of protest, one in three women still experience physical or sexual violence. Ninety percent of college students who are assaulted don’t report the assault. And in New York City, a man recently forced his girlfriend to parade naked down the sidewalk and proudly posted the video online,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, honorary Chair for the Commission on Gender Equity. “Enough. We must make our streets safe for women and girls. This Administration will not rest until New Yorkers are safe from sexual assault, and I’m proud to stand with so many others against sexual violence.”

“Creating and sustaining a culture that has no tolerance for sexual assault requires an investment in the tools we know to be most impactful in stopping it; this means investing in ongoing awareness, education, and prevention. Our Administration is not only invested in these priorities, but also in developing greater collaborations across all City agencies to ensure a cohesive, interagency approach to stop sexual violence,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Herminia Palacio. 

“Today and every day, we honor the survivors of sexual violence and recommit ourselves to ending this epidemic once and for all. Too often, society ignores, shames, or blames sexual violence survivors for their experiences. Too often, we make excuses for those who perpetuate these terrible acts. We have a responsibility to shine a light on sexual violence, end dangerous stereotypes, and empower individuals and communities to stand up united against rape and sexual assault.  The bravery and strength of our survivors should not and cannot be in vain. I thank the New York City Council Women’s Caucus and all the allies here today for their unwavering commitment to this critical cause,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

“There is simply no excuse for sexual assault against any person,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “We must to do more to create a safe environment for victims – both men and women – to feel comfortable stepping out and speaking up about their experience so assailants cannot get away with these disgusting crimes. Today and every day we must remind survivors that they are not alone and we will continue doing all we can to support them and punish perpetrators to the full extent of the law.”

“Denim Day is an important opportunity to raise awareness about sexual assault and to show solidarity with survivors,” said Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence Commissioner Cecile Noel. “Consent is a simple concept, but as the Office to Combat Domestic Violence knows too well, our society still struggles to value, model and create relationships that are based in trust, respect and equality. Education, prevention and awareness are our most powerful tools to build a culture where every person feels safe and respected in their relationships. The New York City Family Justice Centers, our NYC Healthy Relationship Training Academy and the Office to Combat Domestic Violence Training Institute are invaluable resources to achieve this end.”

"The City of New York is home to thousands of survivors, many of whom are unknown and their stories left untold, fearing the stigma that those who come forward have experienced. Denim Day NYC is part of an international movement to change societal perspectives on sexual violence, which often criminalizes the victim rather than the perpetrator and undermines public trust in government. Through increased awareness on sexual assault, we are empowering survivors by putting an end to victim blaming, enacting stronger laws to protect survivor rights, and investing additional resources towards their full recovery,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo, Chair of the Committee on Women’s Issues and co-Chair of the Women’s Caucus.

“On Denim Day we remember that every two minutes, someone in America is sexually assaulted, and we stand together against both sexual violence and indifference,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “The Italian high court decision that gave rise to Denim Day claimed the tightness of a victim’s denim jeans as grounds to doubt a charge of sexual violence. That court silenced a victim, and we’re standing together in denim today to end the silence, denial, and inaction with which these crimes have too often been met.”

“We wear denim today to proclaim our solidarity with the survivors of sexual assault and to declare that we will not accept a culture that stigmatizes women based on their appearance,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “The false assumption that a particular article of clothing indicates consent to sex will not hold in Brooklyn or anywhere else. Yes, and only yes, means yes.”

The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence is a member of the 2016 Denim Day NYC planning committee, and conducts events across the city to raise awareness around sexual assault and the resources that are available to survivors across the five boroughs. This afternoon OCDV Commissioner Cecile Noel will join Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner Bill Chong to welcome dozens of fathers to the Long Island City offices of the Fortune Society to attend a workshop conducted by OCDV’s NYC Healthy Relationship Training Academy staff on the subject of consent.

The NYC Family Justice Centers (FJC) in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens also marked the day by offering workshops and events for domestic violence survivors and their families, from self-defense workshops to poetry slams. OCDV operates these co‐located multidisciplinary domestic violence service centers that provide vital social service, civil legal and criminal justice assistance for survivors of intimate partner violence and their children under one roof. A fifth Family Justice Center is opening on Staten Island later this spring.

A full list of today’s events can be found here:

In 2005, OCDV launched the Academy to provide interactive workshops – in both English and Spanish – on dating violence and cyber abuse for adolescents, young adults, parents and service providers. The workshops are facilitated by peer educators, ranging in age from 17- to 25-years-old, who encourage discussion and critical thinking about these challenging topics. The Academy is a prevention based model to raise awareness about dating violence, educate youth to recognize unhealthy relationships and provide them with the tools needed to build healthy relationships. In 2015, the Academy conducted 307 workshops and trained 6,671 youth, parents and organizational staff.

Earlier this year, OCDV, in collaboration with the New York City Administration for Children’s Services and as part of the First Lady of New York City’s ThriveNYC mental health initiative, announced the creation of a new initiative called the Creating Awareness about Relationship Equality (CARE) program. CARE, a part of OCDV’s Healthy Relationshiops Training Academy, is a prevention education program designed for youth in foster care between the ages of ages 11- and 21-years-old to support teen dating violence awareness and healthy relationship skills building. These workshops are also facilitated by peer educators, and through partnerships with ACS Provider agencies, the CARE program aims to reach approximately 5,000 youth in foster care, in addition to 900 foster care parents and foster care agency staff.

"This last year, we made special efforts to encourage people who experience sexual assaults out in public, in their homes, or on college campuses not only to report to the police – but to call our Special Victims Division directly," said Police Commissioner William J. Bratton. "We appreciate events like Denim Day because it helps remind the public how much attention these crimes need – from every sector of government, and from a range of community groups. We need to take action together."

“By empowering men with the tools they need to advocate against sexual violence and for healthy relationships – not only their own but those of their friends and peers – DYCD’s Fatherhood Initiative and community providers are strengthening New York City’s families and young people,” said Department of Youth & Community Development Commissioner Bill Chong. “DYCD is proud to partner with the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence in addressing these very important issues on Denim Day and throughout the year.”

“Survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence remain silent all too often because of a lack of support,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “Whether you’re a City employee, a friend, a family member, or a concerned New Yorker, it is vital that we listen to, stand with and support survivors on their path to safety and recovery.”

“Denim Day is an important demonstration of our City’s commitment to speak out against sexual assault and domestic violence,” said Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner Gladys Carrión. “To end the vicious cycle of sexual assault, we must all work together to raise awareness around this important issue that affects so many women and families. Survivors need to know that they are not alone and that there are resources available to them. I commend the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence for being a staunch advocate on this issue.”

“Every year, we come together as a city to raise awareness about the far too common reality of sexual assault and violence against girls and women,” said NYC Human Rights Commissioner and Chair Carmelyn P. Malalis. “Many victims of sexual assault and violence face economic insecurity and instability, often due to workplace discrimination or the difficulty of seeking or maintaining employment as a survivor of violence or assault. The New York City Human Rights Law, enforced by the Commission, offers strong protections in employment and, as of July 26th, in housing, for victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence, so that New Yorkers who have suffered from these crimes can get help while also maintaining their employment or housing safely. I encourage victims to seek help from the Commission and our community partners to join us in bringing attention to this issue so others don’t have to experience discrimination and bias as victims.”    

Counsel to the Mayor Maya Wiley said, “We wear denim to support survivors of sexual violence. Women don't ask to be attacked. And  no one should be denied justice because of their clothing. Denim Day is an important way for all of us to make clear ‘No means no.’”

“I urge every woman and girl in New York City to put on her jeans and make a statement in support of survivors of sexual assault,” said Azadeh Khalili, Executive Director of the Commission on Gender Equity. “This fashion statement is a visible means of protest against myths that surround all sexual assault. The de Blasio Administration is committed to creating a city where every individual is safe and lives free of violence.”

“The men and women of the New York City Department of Probation are dedicated to promoting nonviolence, and to end sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence. We are honored to be a part of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence efforts and to help get this important message out across New York City,” said Department of Probation Commissioner Ana M. Bermúdez Esq.

“Denim Day is an important reminder that regardless of what you wear, there is never an excuse for sexual assault,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Victim blaming often prevents people from talking about their assault, which is a key part of the healing process. As a City, we need to support survivors and ensure they have access to mental health resources. I encourage New Yorkers who are survivors of sexual assault to call 1-800-LIFENET to find support.”

“NYC Health + Hospitals takes sexual assault very seriously. It can happen to anyone, but when it happens to some of society’s most vulnerable, results are that much more devastating,” said Dr. Ram Raju, CEO and President of NYC Health + Hospitals. “We remain vigilant and committed to ensuring all victims of sexual assault who enter our health system are provided accessible, comprehensive, and compassionate medical care.” 

“Each sexual assault crime committed in our city is an attack on us all,” said Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. “The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice is committed to using all available resources to stopping this crime and ensuring that offenders are brought to justice. I support the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence in the effort to increase supportive services for survivors on Denim Day and throughout the year.”

“The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs stands in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault,” said Commissioner Nisha Agarwal of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “We deeply appreciate the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence efforts to have all City employees join and support Denim Day. It is also a powerful way for immigrant communities to join with other advocates in New York City to combat the myths surrounding sexual assault.”

“I’m proud to support women and healthy relationships by wearing denim today. Let’s continue to challenge ourselves to get involved and fight against sexual assault no matter where it may happen, whether in the home, at work, or on our streets. We need a culture change and I implore all levels of government to support these efforts through public education and increased funding for effective anti-sexual violence programming,” said Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon.

“No woman should have to fear sexual assault, especially because of the outfit she is wearing,” said Assembly Member Deborah J. Glick. “Victims should know that they are never alone, and that there are many supportive people and services which they can access. I thank the Mayor’s Office for raising awareness and also providing supports and services for prevention and treatment.”
"Today we wear denim in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault. In the U.S. tens of thousands of rape kits sit waiting to be tested, some for years, due to inadequate funding. Meanwhile, our universities are grappling with the definition of consent. Denim day is a powerful tool to raise awareness about the work ahead of us all to bring justice to survivors of sexual assault, and I want to thank the Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence for their role in educating young people on healthy relationships," said Council Member Helen Rosenthal, co-Chair of the Women's Caucus.
“Sexual and intimate partner violence is a real and persistent problem in our communities. Despite the vicious nature of sexual and domestic assault, all too often victims find themselves stigmatized and scrutinized for having been attacked. Today, New York City stands united against these heinous crimes. We hear you, we believe you, and we are here for you. I am proud to participate in Denim Day and proud to be a part of a City government that dedicates itself to ending sexual and domestic assault and empowering survivors. I thank First Lady Chirlane McCray, Deputy Mayor Herminia Palacio, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Bronx Deputy Borough President Aurelia Greene, and Women’s Caucus co-Chairs Council Members Laurie Cumbo and Helen Rosenthal for their leadership and ongoing commitment to ending sexual, domestic, and intimate partner violence,” said Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety.

“Denim Day NYC puts a spotlight on the invisibility of the survivor with our I AM NOT INVISIBLE campaign. Survivors can feel invisible to the perpetrators who objectify them. Sexual abuse survivors can feel that who they are as a person has been invalidated and they have just become the sum of parts; they have been rendered invisible. Their spirit, soul, essence ceased to matter along with their right to self-determination. There are also stereotypes of the kind of person that we think of who are sexually abused, but we know that not to be true; there are invisible populations that suffer abuse: young, old, rich, poor, African American, Asian, Latino, White, disabled, men, LGBTQ, immigrants, and the list goes on. Today we ask you to go to our website and take our pledge, a vote in solidarity with the survivors so that our campaign can reach even more people with positive messages of hope and most of all, see ALL people, as who they are, whole, individuals with the right to make their own decisions about their own body,” said Alexandra Smith, Chair of the Denim Day NYC Planning Committee.

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