CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Dressed in denim or denim-looking stickers on scrubs, a couple dozen employees at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center gathered to show their support for sexual assault awareness Wednesday.
Meredith Noha, the coordinator of the HOPE program at Chesapeake Regional, organized the day and explained its origin, which dates back to 1999.
“It started because a driving instructor in Italy sexually assaulted one of his students. The lower court convicted him and the appellate court turned it over because they said her jeans were so tight that she would have had to help take them off, ” she said.
The jeans are a reminder of the myths and misconceptions, she said, that sexual assault victims have to deal with.
“You shouldn’t have worn that, or you shouldn’t have had those drinks,” she said.
It’s estimated that one in six American women will be victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. About one in 33 American men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
National Denim Day is a way to raise awareness.
“We encourage folks to speak up. We teach our sons, we teach our daughters, we teach our brothers and our sisters the way to treat each other and what’s appropriate and not appropriate,” said participant and nurse Carri Folwaczny.
It is also to let victims know there is help.
“Part of what we do is giving them the power back because it was taken away from them,” Noha told WAVY.
Healing Opportunities Providing Empowerment, or HOPE, offers mental health services, forensic exams or just someone to hold your hand.
“You may not want to participate in the criminal justice which that’s your choice, but at least coming forward to a program like ours gets you resources and the ability to recover,” said Noha.
So, the message isn’t what they’re wearing, Folwaczny said, it’s what they’re doing.
“We have to take a stance against this and this is a start, wearing jeans is a start,” she said.