By Staff Sgt. Savannah L. Waters, 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 27, 2021
(Courtesy photo, University of Wisconsin)
Throughout their military careers, service members are required to understand, identify and prevent sexual harassment, sexual assault and abuse, and rape. Tolerance of these acts, turning a blind-eye or defending perpetrators results in alienating survivors and denying them the justice they deserve.
Sexual violence is difficult to discuss and often goes unmentioned. According to the University of Wisconsin in 2019, 1 in 5 American women have been raped at some time in their lives — and 1 in 71 American men. Nearly 1 in 2 American women and 1 in 5 men have experienced other forms of sexual violence, including sexual coercion and unwanted sexual contact.
Every year people around the world participate in Denim Day, a national movement encouraging allies to wear jeans as an international symbol of protest against erroneous and destructive attitudes and myths surrounding sexual assault.
The movement grew from a 1998 Italian Supreme Court decision that overturned a rape conviction because the victim wore tight jeans. These events took place in 1992, in which the 18-year-old girl was raped by her 45-year-old driving instructor, and he threatened to kill her if she told anyone.
The perpetrator was arrested and convicted of rape, but appealed it in a case that made its way to the Italian Supreme Court.
In a statement by the Chief Judge, he argued, “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.”
This verdict sparked outrage and protests throughout Italy, starting with the women in the Italian Parliament, who wore jeans to work following the decision.
These protests motivated the California Senate and Assembly to do the same. In 1999 California established the first Denim Day in the United States, calling supporters to wear denim. Since then, it has spread throughout the country and continued annually since.
This year on April 28, 2021, Wyvern Nation will have the opportunity to participate in Denim Day, and members are encouraged to show their support.
“It will serve as a visible means of protest against the myths of sexual assault, and remind our victims we stand in support of them,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Kaylee Ausbun, 31st Fighter Wing sexual assault response coordinator. “Not all units can support this initiative due to mission and safety requirements, but Airmen and civilians who can wear jeans and or any denim apparel are encouraged to do so.”
There are countless cases, past and present, reinforcing blame toward the victim. This response makes it less likely for victims of sexual assault or rape to come forward. It’s every Airman’s job to recognize false beliefs about rape that justify sexual aggression and trivialize the seriousness of sexual violence, and encourage others to stand up against it.
“Although many of us are familiar with April being Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, educating ourselves and others on sexual assault prevention, intervention and response is not limited to one day of wearing denim, or one month of awareness and outreach events,” said Ausbun. “We all have a duty to cultivate an environment of dignity and respect and as Wyverns, protecting our people helps protect our mission.”