VILSECK, Germany -- April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. This movement aims to raise awareness about sexual assault and the devastating effect it has not only on the victim, but also the Army's mission.

National Denim Day is a campaign within the month which raises awareness by encouraging people to wear jeans on a designated "Denim Day", this year on April 29.

Myths and stereotypes about sexual assault have long persevered, making it difficult for many to grasp the consequences and long-lasting effects of sexual assault. It is for this reason that we are sharing with you the incident that occurred in 1999 that had people from all over the world wearing jeans to show support for victims, but also to educate communities and overturn myths about sexual assault.

Below is a reprint of the article that launched the Denim Day campaign:

"Italians Protest Court Ruling that Rape Impossible in Jeans" (Feb. 12, 1999)
By HARMONIE TOROS, Associated Press Writer

ROME -- Women lawmakers wore jeans to Parliament on Thursday and Italy's highest appeals court was accused of sexism after ruling it is impossible to rape a woman wearing jeans.

"If we go on like this, every woman that doesn't wear a chastity belt will have the "right" to be rape", said Sonia Viale of Parliament's equal opportunities commission.

The Court of Cassation ruled Wednesday it is impossible to take off tight pants like jeans "without the cooperation of the person wearing them", and it said it is impossible if the victim is struggling. Baggy jeans aren't popular in Italy, and many women prefer tight pants.

The decision overturned the 1998 conviction of a 45-year-old driving instructor in southern Italy, Carmine Cristiano, for raping an 18-year-old student. A lower court had sentenced Cristiano to two years and eight months in prison, but the appeals court said the girl must have consented to sex and
sent the case back for retrial.

The court also questioned why the victim, identified only as Rosa, waited several hours to tell her parents she'd been attacked.

"It could be seen as a manual for aspiring rapists," the Rome daily Il Messaggero fumed in a front-page story. "Jeans: An alibi for rape," read a sign held up in Parliament by five jeans-clad lawmakers.

Alessandra Mussolini, a deputy of the rightist National Alliance who led Thursday's protest, called the ruling "shameful" and said it "offends the dignity of women."

"Women are already scared of reporting rapes, this just makes it worse," she said.

Massimo D'Alema said he could not comment on the ruling as prime minister. But he said, as a private citizen, he expressed "solidarity" with the female lawmakers.

Protesting lawmakers called on women all over Italy to join a "skirt strike" and wear jeans, and the anchor of a popular television show known for her chic dresses donned a pair of denims.

"We thank the court for having enriched women's wardrobes with a new garment. To the business suit and the little black dress, we can now add the anti-rape outfit: a comfortable and resistant pair of jeans," said union official Stefania Sidoli.

A housewives federation ridiculed the court by offering a prize to any designer who comes up with "easy-off jeans," and it planned a march in dungarees to the Justice Ministry. Although many were upset at the ruling, Federica Snider, a 17-year-old in Rome, agreed with the three-judge panel. "It's impossible to rape someone wearing jeans. You've got to really overpower them," she said.

The ruling also drew attention to the makeup of the appeals court, which has 10 female justices and 410 men.

"Nothing can be done. Justice in the court is in the hands of men, often elderly, with old ideas," a veteran female justice, Simonetta Sotgiu, told the newspaper La Repubblica. She denounced the ruling as setting a dangerous precedent. "It paves the way for the rape of women in jeans," she said.

Wednesday's ruling wasn't the first to offend women. In 1997, the court tossed out a sexual harassment case brought by a secretary against her boss. The court ruled that the man was in love and was just being gallant when he kissed her. The woman was fired after she rebuffed his advances.

(End of 1999 article.)

While this incident occurred in Italy, it is relevant to us all. False and victim-blaming messages spread like wildfire and perpetuate misconceptions about such a serious offense.

To state "it is impossible to remove them (jeans) without the wearer's consent" implies, of course, that women cannot be sexually assaulted while wearing jeans. This is nothing short of dangerous, as it reinforces stereotypes and myths about sexual assault that are simply untrue.

Sexual assault and rape is a crime. What a victim wears does not change that fact nor does it matter whether or not the victim cooperated. Cooperation does not equal consent. Sexual assault is a tough reality and one that we cannot allow to be minimized or dismissed.

Join the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program team as we wear our jeans on "National Denim Day", April 29.