Fort Irwin Soldiers, Families, civilians participate in Denim Day walk to show they care about victims and combating problem
“Sexual assault and sexual harassment in the Army and across the nation is a problem and we have to confront that problem head-on,” stated Brig. Gen. Ted Martin, commander of the National Training Center and Fort Irwin.
Martin was speaking to a formation of Soldiers, Families and civilian employees of this military installation, April 26. The group had gathered to show solidarity for victims of sexual assaults around the world. They wore denim, carried their unit guideons, and brought their children and pets to participate in a Denim Day walk in garrison.
According to www.denimdayusa.org, Denim Day – held in April – is a world-wide effort to make a social statement by wearing jeans as a visible means of protest against misconceptions that surround sexual assault. The campaign in the United States began in 1999 after a rape case was dismissed in Italy in 1998. A judge overturned a rape conviction when he said the victim must have consented to sex because her tight jeans indicated she assisted in the act.
By joining the Denim Day campaign, the NTC and Fort Irwin community shows that it cares, Martin said.
“The only way to prevail in this battle is to recognize [the problem] and we’ll take action, on everybody’s part,” Martin said. “And I’m glad that you’re joining with me here today.”
The sexual assault problem in the U.S. military has recently been addressed by civilian leadership of the armed forces, including the Commander in Chief. President Barack Obama was briefed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and military top brass, May 16. A Pentagon Channel video of the meeting shows Obama stating he wants to create an environment where victims of sexual crimes can step forward without fear.
“They got to know that they should have no fear of retaliation, no fear of stigma, no damage to their careers, and certainly no protection for criminals,” Obama said.
The President also said that he supports Hagel’s proposed reform that would restrict the ability of commanders to overturn convictions after trial.
The next day, during a Pentagon press conference, the secretary particularly emphasized listening to sexual assault victims who “didn’t feel their commanders were accountable enough [for victims] to be able to come forward and register a complaint, file a complaint, because they thought they would be subject to many things, … and then also having no confidence that anything would be done about their complaint.”
Hagel also said that every single servicemember at every level must be alert to the problem and be part of the solution.
“Working together, we can and will restore faith in ourselves, and the trust and faith of the American people,” Hagel said.