Local Law Enforcement Wear Denim for Sexual Assault Victims

Two law enforcement officers in Nome stand smiling, wearing denim jeans.

Yesterday, Alaska State Troopers were asked by the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety to change out their uniform pants for a pair of blue jeans.

The officers of Nome’s AST Post, led by Sergeant Aileen Witrosky, were some of the Troopers statewide who participated in “Wear Denim Day” by switching out their blues. Sgt. Witrosky says this is the first time her team has done something like this.

“The only other event is the ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’ that occurs in Anchorage. So out here (in Nome), we haven’t really had any kind of dress-down days.”

Wear Denim Day was established in the U.S. after a sexual assault case went to the Supreme Court in Italy during the 1990s. The decision from the court in that case was to overturn a sexual assault conviction of a 45-year old male driving instructor who raped an 18-year-old student. According to the court’s argument, the victim was wearing very tight jeans, so she had to have helped the perpetrator remove them, therefore giving consent.

Wearing denim on April 24th started as a statement of protest against the court’s decision, but now, it is seen as a way to generate awareness about sexual assault. Nome’s Police Chief Bob Estes explained how NPD was building that awareness yesterday.

“Through the Commissioner of the State, it was authorized for the Troopers to participate by wearing denim with their uniforms today. So, we are in support of our Troopers locally; we’re doing this with them and bringing awareness to our victims, and support(ing) victims of assault.”

The next opportunity for Nome’s law enforcement to “dress down” will be the Special Olympics torch run next month.

KNOM’s Emily Hofstaedter contributed to this report.

Image at top: Sergeant Aileen Witrosky and Nome Chief of Police Bob Estes participate in Wear Denim Day in Nome, April 24, 2019. Photo: Davis Hovey, KNOM.