JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – A movement that began more than three decades ago in Italy is now recognized every April during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
Soldiers and civilians assigned to Regional Health Command-Pacific took part in this year’s Denim Day commemoration on Wednesday, April 27.
RHC-P, with its headquarters split between JBLM and Honolulu, coordinated the event to make sure it was observed at both locations. RHC-P subordinate units located around the globe observed Denim Day as well.
Denim Day asks people to wear jeans on a Wednesday in April to raise awareness of harmful behaviors and attitudes about sexual violence.
The event was part of Regional Health Command-Pacific’s efforts to help stop and prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault in the ranks.
“There's no place in our Army for sexual harassment and assault, domestic violence, or other harmful behaviors that inhibit readiness,” said Brig. Gen. Edward H. “Ned” Bailey, commanding general of RHC-P, earlier in April while signing a proclamation declaring the command's Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
Sgt. 1st Class Jessica Guerrero, RHC-P’s SHARP program manager, said Denim Day is an important part of raising awareness of the crimes of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
“Denim Day is personally important to me because it is a visible means to protest against the misconceptions that surround rape, sexual violence, sexual abuse, sexual assault, and sexual harassment,” Guerrero said.
“Denim Day affords everyone an opportunity to visibly stand in solidarity and support survivors by renewing the commitment to exposing harmful behaviors and attitudes surrounding sexual violence,” she added.
Guerrero said Denim Day affords everyone an opportunity to visibly stand in solidarity with and support survivors by renewing the commitment to exposing harmful behaviors and attitudes surrounding sexual violence.
“There is still no excuse and never an invitation to harass, abuse, assault, and rape,” she said. “Denim Day is a great way to support survivors of sexual violence and sexual assault by drawing public attention to survivors’ needs.”
Denim Day got its start in 1998 after an Italian supreme court decision overturned a man’s rape conviction. The court stated in its opinion that since the victim had been wearing tight jeans, she must have helped her attacker remove them, which made the act consensual.
The day after the court decision, however, women working in Italy’s Parliament protested by wearing jeans to show solidarity with the victim; the protests brought worldwide attention to the issue.
The court decision was eventually overturned and the so-called 'denim alibi' no longer exists.
The first Denim Day was held in Los Angeles in 1999 and rapidly became a worldwide phenomenon, now recognized annually.
Regional Health Command-Pacific, headquartered at JBLM and in Honolulu, is the most geographically-dispersed command in Army Medicine, stretching more than 5,000 miles and five time zones across the Pacific.
The command oversees Army Medicine units in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Japan and South Korea.
Guerrero had some special words for survivors of sexual assault, who she called “the bravest people I know.”
“I stand with you,” she said. “You and your experiences matter – regardless of whether you choose to speak of it or not. Keep hope alive. Together, we will make a difference.”