Sexual Assault Awareness

April is Sexual Assault Prevention Month, and, as part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness of the issue and educate communities, the Retreat, a nonprofit advocacy organization and shelter for victims of domestic violence, will present Navigating Consent: A Sexual Abuse Prevention Workshop for high school students today from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the East Hampton Library. 

According to Helen Atkinson-Barnes, the Retreat’s education program manager, the workshop has been specifically developed for high schoolers. Through a series of informative discussions, teenagers will learn what consent really means, how to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy sexual practices, how to recognize when they, or friends, might be at risk, and risk reduction strategies. 

“We’ll cover important topics like being supportive of a victim instead of victim blaming,” said Ms. Atkinson-Barnes. “It’s not okay to say things like, ‘He or she must have asked for it.’ Also, we’ll cover bystander intervention, nonverbal cues, and how to set boundaries.”

Only high school students will be admitted to the workshop. They will receive community service hours and free pizza. 

In addition, Wednesday is international Denim Day, a campaign borne from a ruling in the 1990s by the Italian Supreme Court in which a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans, thereby implying consent. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim. 

Since then, wearing jeans on Denim Day has become a symbol of protest against the misconceptions and destructive attitudes about sexual assault. As part of the Retreat’s ongoing rape prevention education program, the organization is asking community members, elected officials, businesspeople, and students to make an important social statement by wearing jeans on Wednesday as a visible means of protest against sexual assault. 

Photos and selfies of people dressed in jeans on Wednesday can be posted on the Retreat’s Facebook page as well as sent to the organization via Twitter or Instagram.

“The issue of sexual assault has always been relevant,” said Loretta Davies, the executive director of the Retreat. “But this year with MeToo and everything that’s going on, it’s especially important to bring the issues to the public’s attention.”