BATH, Maine – An award ceremony at a Navy command is a pretty standardized affair and one that commanding officers (CO) will preside over without deviation hundreds of times throughout their career, but, on April 15 on board Pre-commissioning Unit Rafael Peralta (DDG 115), there was one small but very noticeable difference to the ceremony.
The command master chief still passed awards to the CO who made small talk with Sailors about their achievements and hard work while pinning on their awards and then posing for a photo before moving on, but, on this day, the crew had shed the standard navy working uniform (NWU) for more casual attire: jeans and their favorite Navy t-shirt.
This was not a ploy by Executive Officer Cmdr. Aaron DeMeyer to build crew morale, but a concerted effort to recognize a special event.
“We just wanted to show support for Denim Day because it’s a great cause,” said DeMeyer. “You don’t often see award ceremonies where the Crew isn't in a uniform, but carrying on an important ceremony while wearing jeans serves to remind us all how important our attitude about sexual assault can be in affecting people’s lives."
In 1998, the Italian Supreme Court overturned the 1992 conviction of a driving instructor accused of raping his student. The Chief Judge reasoned, “Because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape but consensual sex.”
The decision sparked worldwide outrage. Female members of the Italian Parliament wore jeans to work in a show of unity, and their protest was followed by members of the California State Assembly and Senate. It is from this absurd ruling that Denim Day was born. Coinciding with Sexual Assault Awareness Month, on “Denim Day” jeans are encouraged as a way to show support for victims and protest the misguided perceptions surrounding sexual abuse.
So, while Commanding Officer Cmdr. Brian Ribota attempted to improvise the normal routine and pin all seven medals to Sailors in pocket-less t-shirts, his every attempt reminded the crew of the reason they were clad in denim.
April is also Department of Defense Sexual Assault Awareness Prevention Month. The theme for 2016 is "Eliminate Sexual Assault: Know Your Part. Do Your Part." Service members are encouraged to be a steadfast participant in creating an appropriate culture and upholding military core values.
To learn more about Sexual Assault Awareness Prevention Month, please visit the Navy Personnel Command’s website