Jeans day intended to bring Air Force Academy into forefront of discussion on sexual assault
By TOM ROEDER | The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette | Published: April 16, 2019
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Tribune News Service) — More than 4,000 cadets at the Air Force Academy will have a first-of-its-kind uniform of the day April 24 as part of a wider effort at the school to raise awareness of sexual assault.
Jeans, long forbidden for cadets on duty, will be allowed by Lt. Gen Jay Silveria, who wants cadets to consider the toll of sexual attacks after a Pentagon report in January found that more women at the school faced unwanted sexual contact but fewer were reporting it to authorities.
The Pentagon report found that 15 percent of the school’s more than 800 women had experienced unwanted sexual contact, but just 10 percent of those had made reports.
“I was disgusted by the report,” Silveria told a crowd of civic leaders who gathered Friday for his annual address on the state of the academy. “I was disgusted by the results of the report and it is unacceptable for the Air Force Academy.”
Silveria said the jeans-as-uniform day is part of a plan to bring the academy to the forefront of a national conversation on sexual assault.
Denim Day, April 24, in which people are encouraged to wear jeans to raise awareness of rape and sexual assault, grew out of a 1998 Italian court ruling that overturned a rape conviction because the victim wore tight jeans. At the academy, it will be held in conjunction with the general’s Pathways to Prevention summit, which will solicit ideas from cadets on how to stop sexual crimes.
“The bottom line is we have to do better, the Air Force Academy will remain a place of dignity,” Silveria said Friday. “We intend to lead in this area.”
The Pentagon is pushing its military academies to address sexual crimes, and last week brought together Silveria and his counterparts from West Point and Annapolis to discuss the issue.
Reported sexual assaults in the academic year that ended last May were down, from 33 in the prior year to 29 in 2018.
Silveria has attacked the issue of sexual assault with a series of programs, including a summit last year that sought advice from sexual assault victims.
But the issue is far from resolved at the school, which announced Friday that Jefferson Hobbs, a cadet candidate at the academy’s preparatory school, will face a hearing next week on three allegations of sexual assault.
Charging documents in the case allege that Hobbs grabbed a woman’s hand and placed it onto his groin in an August incident. In a September incident, court papers charge that Hobbs kissed a woman and had sex with a woman without consent. A hearing Tuesday will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to court-martial Hobbs.