By Staff Sgt. Jennifer AtkinsonApril 30, 2014
CAMP MABRY, Texas -- Most military members are easily identified by the uniform they wear to work every day. Whether green, blue or desert tan, each service is constant in their pride in that uniform. On Wednesday, April 23, though, Texas Military Forces members here on Camp Mabry, in Austin, and across the state, traded that uniform in for denim during National Denim Day in support of Sexual Assault Awareness month.
Denim might seem a strange choice to raise awareness of sexual assault, but the choice of clothing material is directly related to a 1992 rape case in Italy.
According to a report by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) a young woman was attacked by her driving instructor and left in an alley. The driving instructor was convicted of rape, but appealed the conviction.
In 1999, the Supreme Court of Appeal in Rome heard the case, where the conviction was overturned on the grounds that the young woman's jeans were so tight she had to help her attacker take them off- implying consensual sex rather than rape.
Women and men across Italy, from politicians to activists to ordinary citizens, wore jeans in protest of the decision and an international day of awareness and action was born. Denim jeans became a symbol of the many misconceptions still surrounding sexual violence, such as the "right" way to respond to an attack and clothes being an excuse for rape.
With sexual assault prevention at the top of the Department of Defense priorities, Sgt. Jessica Gagne, TXMF Victim Advocate Coordinator, sees National Denim Day as a way to reach out in an unconventional way, and to share in an international effort to dispel those damaging myths and misconceptions.
"Denim Day isn't just about wearing jeans, it's a tool to change the way we think," said Gagne. "It's about making a statement that no matter what a person is wearing, it's not an excuse to hurt them."
Nationally, one in five women, and one in 71 men have been attacked in their lifetime, according to SafePlace, an Austin-based organization providing extensive community outreach, education and prevention programs. Approximately 60 percent of sexual assaults aren't reported to police. For many, the misconceptions surrounding sexual assault hold them back from reporting.
Much like the idea that clothing is responsible for sexual assault, SafePlace lists other myths hindering reporting a sexual assault such as:
Myth: If someone engages in any sexual contact they are giving consent for sex.
Reality: Adults have the right to engage in sexual contact until the point they decide to stop.
Myth: Men cannot be raped.
Reality: Thirteen percent of all reported rapes are against male victims. One in six boys are raped before the age of 18.
Myth: Strangers in dark alleys commit most rapes.
Reality: The majority of rapes, 80 percent, are by an acquaintance in a familiar place such as home, their car or office.
Myth: Rape is motivated by sexual gratification.
Reality: Sexual assault is about power and control, not sex. Rapists have a desire to dominate, humiliate and degrade their victims through the use of violence.
Myth: Husbands cannot rape their wives.
Reality: Any sexual activity that is not consensual takes choice away from the victim, regardless of the relationship to the rapists.
Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, adjutant \general for the state of Texas is clear on his stance on sexual assault.
"Sexual assault has no place in the Texas Military Forces," he said. "It diminishes our cohesion, and trust in each other. We can't requisition that trust like we do equipment, we have to build it and keep it by staying true to our promises and responsibilities."