Showing solidarity with college students worldwide on a day meant to raise awareness of sexual assault, 4,000 Air Force Academy cadets wore jeans Wednesday, an unprecedented sight on a military campus.
At a noon event that featured Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria parachuting onto the terrazzo, cadets wearing jeans and T-shirts pledged to eliminate sexual assault at the school and care for victims.
Denim Day, observed on a Wednesday in April, was begun by the group Peace Over Violence in 1999. The campaign began after the Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction in 1998 because the victim had been wearing tight jeans, which implied consent.
“No piece of clothing can represent an invitation,” the Levis-wearing Silveria told the cadets.
Cadets pushed for wearing jeans Wednesday instead of their airman’s uniforms to show their and the academy’s commitment to addressing sexual assault and harassment on campus.
The Pentagon has mandated that its military academies address sexual crimes, with a task force assigned to the issue and generals put on notice.
At the academy, where sexual assault reports fell last year to 29 from 33, leaders are troubled by a survey that showed the number of women facing unwanted sexual contact has increased, but reporting has dropped.
Silveria said he takes pride in having cadets come up with a plan to stamp out sexual assault in the ranks.
A committee of cadets arranged the jeans day event to coincide with classroom discussions on sexual assault that let their classmates know that they need to stand up for victims and help prevent assaults.
The cadets in jeans were each saying they’ve bought into making sexual assault part of the academy’s history, rather than its future, explained senior cadet Jess Tobias, who helped with the planning.
“It’s awesome to see how much support we have today,” she said.
Sophomore cadet Kiana Brantley said all the denim on campus — with generals and cadets dressed the same — showed that sexual assault isn’t tolerated at the academy.
“Sexual assault is something the cadet wing cares about,” she said.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx