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111th ATKW members don denim during Sexual Assault Awareness Month

  • Published
  • By 111th Attack Wing Public Affairs
  • 111th Attack Wing

BIDDLE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, PA -- Members of the 111th Attack Wing observed Denim Day, a part of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, by trading their traditional duty uniform for jeans April, 27, 2022.

Vivian Claud, 111th ATKW Sexual Assault response coordinator, and her team of volunteer victim advocates made sure to educate the Wing on the history behind denim day during April’s regularly schedule drill.

In a video featured during commander’s call, Staff Sgt. Brianna Vandebunte, a volunteer victims advocate who serves with the 111th Force Support Squadron, talked about the significance of donning denim in April.

“Denim Day takes place on the last Wednesday of April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” said Vandebunte. “This day of action and awareness is event in which people are encouraged to wear denim to combat victim blaming and educate others about sexual violence.”

Denim Day traces its roots to a 1998 Italian Supreme Court decision that overturned a rape conviction based on the fact that the survivor wore tight-fitting jeans.

The case was based on the account of an 18-year-old girl, who was picked up by her driving instructor for her very first driving lesson. During that lesson, the 45-year-old married man took the teen to an isolated road, pulled her out of the car, wrestled her out of one leg of her jeans, forcefully raped her, and threatened to kill her if she told anyone.

When student told her parents, they supported her in pressing charges. The instructor was arrested, convicted of rape and sentenced to jail. However, he appealed the sentence, and the case made it all the way to the Italian Supreme Court, where the case against the driving instructor was overturned because the chief judge argued that 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.

To protest the verdict, the women in the Italian Parliament wore jeans to work. Their actions motivated the California Senate and Assembly to do the same.

Eventually, the wearing of denim on the last Wednesday in April became an international symbol to protest against victim blaming, bringing awareness to sexual assault prevention.

Pennsylvania Air National Guard Col. Deane Thomey, 111th ATKW Commander, emphasized the importance of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in a recorded commander’s message for April RSD.

“The goal behind the focus for the month is to foster a culture that eliminates sexual assault and encourages a personal commitment from everyone to promote a healthy environment,” said Thomey. “Here at the 111th and across the Department of Defense, the DOD and National Guard themes for this Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month is to step forward, prevent, report and advocate.”