News: Madigan Army Medical Center participates in Denim Day
Story by Sgt. Sarah Enos
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – A 45-year-old driving instructor in Rome raped an 18-year-old girl during her first driving lesson. The Italian Supreme Court overturned his conviction on the grounds that the act must have been consensual because her jeans were so tight she must have helped remove them.
The day after the 1998 ruling, Italian women wore denim jeans and carried signs that read “Jeans: An alibi for rape.” Every year after, countless people from around the world wear jeans to protest the court’s decision.
On April 24, staff at Madigan Army Medical Center, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., held its first Denim Day event in an effort to prevent sexual harassment and assaults by raising awareness.
The Madigan staff encouraged the JBLM community to get involved with the event as well by donating denim jeans, some of which were displayed with clothespins on four long ropes, strung across Madigan’s medical mall.
“We want patients, soldiers and employees to ask, ‘why are those jeans hanging up there?’ ” said Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Paulette, sexual assault response coordinator, Madigan. “Visually, it allows us to showcase what we’re doing as an organization and for Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention in general.”
Showing her support by wearing denim jeans, Staff Sgt. Madylene Fingerle, an operations noncommissioned officer at Madigan, said she had a story similar to the teenager in Rome. The police department focused more on her actions than the perpetrator after she was assaulted.
“The first thing the local police department desk sergeant asked me was if I was married,” said Fingerle. “I replied that I don’t understand why that matters, it was someone other than my husband that raped me.”
Fingerle said that the desk sergeant then questioned her motive for making the report by replying, “Well, how do I know you’re not having an affair and your husband caught you and now you’re just saying it’s rape so you won’t have to worry about getting a divorce?”
At that point Fingerle knew she was on her own.
The Army is actively engaged in preventing similar scenarios from occurring so that sexual harassment and sexual assault incidents are not viewed and treated in contradiction to what it means to serve in the profession of arms.
The command sergeant major for Madigan Army Medical Center, Matthew Brady, said he believes the military is heading in the right direction as it shines the spotlight on sexual harassment and assault prevention.
“I absolutely believe Denim Day is going to be an ongoing event here,” said Brady. “It is a reminder of where we need to get. In retrospect, we can look at where we’ve been. Where we’ve blamed people for what they wore or where they were at whatever time of night and said, ‘You shouldn’t have been there.’ Nobody has a right to do this to you, period.”
Typically, victims are afraid to come forward because they do not know about the SHARP program, Paulette said.
“It is a team effort,” he added. “It’s not just Madigan that is participating in these types of events this month. It’s a joint effort from all tenant units on JBLM and the installation’s SHARP office. We want to get the word out there to everybody that JBLM takes sexual harassment and assault very seriously.”
Madigan collected and donated nearly 300 denim jeans to local charities that support victims of sexual assault.