By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterMay 3, 2018
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- As Sexual Assault Awareness Month approached its end, people on Fort Rucker committed to combating sexual assault year round as representatives from various units and organizations across the installation, clad in teal and denim, walked to Sgt. Ted E. Bear for Denim Day April 25.
Each of the units and organizations marched from their respective locations to converge at the Bear in order to bring recognition to the ongoing issue and pledge their commitment to continue the fight.
Lt. Col. Latonya Walker, deputy commander of nursing at Lyster Army Health Clinic, explained the significance of the day and why it's important to recognize it.
"How did we get to Denim Day?" she asked. "Denim Day grew out of a 1999 Italian supreme court decision that overturned a rape conviction because the 19-year-old victim wore jeans on the day she was assaulted."
Walker explained that during the assault, the 45-year-old perpetrator was able to wrestle the victim's leg out of her jeans, which enabled him to rape her. The victim was able to escape her attacker, and with the help of her parents, pressed charges.
The perpetrator was arrested, convicted of rape and sentenced to jail, but after an appeal, his case made its way to the Italian supreme court where the verdict was overturned and the charges dismissed, allowing the perpetrator to go free.
"In his statement, the chief judge argued that because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to have helped (the perpetrator) remove them by taking her leg out, and so because she helped him, it was no longer rape, but consensual," said Walker. "Enraged by the verdict, within hours the women in the Italian parliament launched into immediate action and protested by wearing jeans to work. This call to action motivated and emboldened the California senate and assembly to do the same."
Since then, wearing jeans became an international symbol of protest against myths surrounding sexual assault, she said, adding that since 2011, more than 2 million Americans have participated in Denim Day.
After the march to the bear, each unit and organization expressed what they will be doing to continue the fight against sexual assault throughout the year and signed their name to the bear to pledge their commitment.
"I feel like it's important because it's an ongoing issue," said Pfc. Shauntae Jackson, LAHC. "If you don't bring awareness to it, no one knows about it. For those who have been assaulted, especially those who don't want to talk about it, if you have this awareness then they know they can talk and see there is someone who cares."
"It happens and it can happen to anybody," added Spc. Rome Cooper, LAHC. "If nobody brings awareness to it, then it's never going to stop. It's important to allow this for a better community, a better kinship among people and it's important that everyone can trust each other."