FORT IRWIN, Calif. — The National Training Center (NTC) and Fort Irwin recognized sexual assault and rape victims during the annual “Denim Day Walk” on April 23 at the Blue Track. Denim Day is an international protest responding to the Italian Supreme Court’s overruling of a rape conviction in 1999. Although the assailant had been found guilty at the trial, the Supreme Court argued that because the victim’s jeans were too tight and difficult to remove, the assailant couldn’t have done so without the help of the victim.
In 2016-2017 the Department of Defense (DOD) reported about 6,300 servicemen (0.6 percent) and 8,600 service women (4.3 percent) experienced a sexual assault. It is estimated that only 13-15 percent of all sexual assaults and harassments ever get reported. Here at Fort Irwin, seven cases of sexual assault and harassment have been filed since December.
The 11th ACR Horse Detachment was present to take part in the ceremony, led by Garrison Commander Col. Seth Krummrich and SHARP Program Manager, Melissa Pinckney. Krummrich talked about some of the challenges that the units face before the units began the walk.
“Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault crimes crush unit cohesion and weaken our formations,” he said. “Why would we give our enemies an advantage?”
The month of April is Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) awareness, which catapulted the SHARP team to have an essay contest for the entire population of Fort Irwin. The winner of the contest was Loretta James (MEDDAC). James, a victim of Sexual Harassment herself, was allowed to share her poem with the audience. The name of her poem was “Standing/Help/And/Rising to/Protect… We all are SHARP!” James said the verse she relates to the most is the third verse and began to recite it. “We are sharp; leaning on each other shoulders from borders to borders. We are sharp; are we listening for the one who may be afraid to speak out, but deep down inside there is a shout for help? Are we ignoring the signs hoping they would go away, or are we with open doors preventing a culture of decay? Our mission is still the same, never to leave one behind on the battlefield.”
After the walk around the installation, NTC Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Lowe had the units gather closely around him to have a more intimate conversation with them about sexual assault and harassment.
Kim Garcia with Garrison Safety talked about what she thought about the entire ceremony.
“What a great event to bring awareness to a systemic problem and I plan to be present for all future events,” she said.