April is nationally recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month or SAAPM -- an annual campaign to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities on how to prevent sexual violence.

People from the Fort Rucker community showed their commitment to combating sexual assault, as representatives from various units and organizations across the installation, dressed in teal and denim, walked to Sgt. Ted E. Bear for Denim Day April 24.

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. Laonya Walker, deputy commander of nursing at Lyster Army Health Clinic, explained the significance of the day and why it's important.

"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," said Walker.

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, 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.

Each unit and organization expressed what they will be doing to continue the fight against sexual assault throughout the year and signed their name on the bear to pledge their commitment.