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Denim Brings Attention to Sexual Assault on Campuses

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Denim Day at NYU opened up discussion about sexual assault with panelists that included actor Josh Hutcherson.

Denim Day at NYU opened up discussion about sexual assault with panelists that included actor Josh Hutcherson.

Sohyung Lew

Sohyung Lew

Denim Day at NYU opened up discussion about sexual assault with panelists that included actor Josh Hutcherson.

By Carlos Michael Rodriguez, Staff Writer

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NYU held its first Denim Day on Friday to raise awareness and change the social narrative around sexual assault. It’s On Us, Straight But Not Narrow, NYU Class Activities Boards and the NYU Silver Undergraduate Student Government Association hosted a panel discussion for Denim Day titled “It’s on Us: Shifting the Culture Around Sexual Assault.”

Denim Day is an international campaign in order to raise awareness about sexual assault by illuminating the injustice of an overturned conviction by the Italian Supreme Court in 1998. After a 45-year-old man had been convicted of raping an 18-year-old girl, the Supreme Court decided that the tightness of the girl’s skinny jeans prevented the man from being able to take them off without help, indicating consent from the victim.

Denim Day is now a symbol of the misguided ideas regarding sexual assault and is used to raise awareness and educate about sexual assault.

The panelists gave insight into how the media tries to change the conversation around sexual assault. Commentators included actor Josh Hutcherson, screenwriter Michael Weber, MTV host Casey Acierno and Bumble representative Alex Williamson.

Williamson discussed how Bumble, the dating app that only allows women to begin a conversation, reverses the typical gender norms and has received positive feedback from its members.

“The male response has been surprisingly great,” Williamson said. “We created this ‘anti-creep’ app. If you’re a guy on Bumble, you’re automatically seen as not creepy.”

Williamson later commented on the low rate of sexual harassment within the app, which she finds is directly related to the subverting of typical
dating norms.

“We actually have .002 percent rate of reports of sexual harassment on our app, which is awesome — that’s not normal for a dating app,”
Williamson said.

Weber told of his own experience regarding dealing with a sexual assault subplot in the script for his film “Spectacular Now,” starring Shailene Woodley. In the book the script was based on, there is a brief moment where Woodley’s character mentions that she had been molested by a relative.

Ultimately, after filming the powerful scene, this subplot was completely cut from the movie because Weber felt it was dishonest. The power and difficulty of the subplot presented in “Spectacular Now” was not given the adequate time and space to be fully fleshed out — which, ultimately, felt dishonest to anyone who had been victimized by sexual assault.

“When the scene was in there, we didn’t have other scenes where characters talked about that; we didn’t have a scene where Shailene confronted the family,” Weber said. “It felt actually more irresponsible to just drop that scene in there and not have any growth for that character.”

Hutcherson elaborated on Weber’s idea, noting the difficulty with portraying sexual assault in film.

“It’s important to share those stories [about sexual assault] so people can connect with it,” Hutcherson said. “But it’s something that is also very personal to people, and it could be a trigger for someone who has had a traumatic experience.”

College of Nursing freshman Aine Marie Policastro, who was in the audience at the event, agreed with the actor about the complexity and nuance behind the Hollywood portrayal of sexual assault.

“[A movie about sexual assault] needs to be marketed in the right way,” Policastro said. “Which is sad, because I think it is a very important issue that needs to be broadcasted and the message needs to be put out there more.”

A version of this story appeared in the Monday, April 24 print issue. Email Carlos Michael Rodriguez at [email protected]

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