KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Denim Day, observed annually in April during Sexual Assault Awareness Month by universities, schools, agencies and businesses in the United States, is starting to catch on at some military bases overseas.

This is the first year that the family advocacy program at U.S. Army Garrison-Kaiserslautern is encouraging unit commanders and supervisors to allow their soldiers and civilians to wear blue jeans to work on Friday in observance of Denim Day, said Yonette Davison, the garrison’s family advocacy program manager.

This will be the third year that units in Heidelberg and Mannheim have participated, said Michele Barber, family advocacy program manager for USAG-Baden Württemberg.

Denim Day grew out of international protests over an Italian Supreme Court decision in the late 1990s. The decision overturned a rape conviction on the grounds the 18-year-old victim must have consented since she was wearing tight jeans, which justices said could be removed only with her help, Army family advocacy program managers said. Women protested by wearing jeans to work.

The intent behind blue jeans in the workplace or in public is to send a strong visual message that “the entire community embraces the idea that sexual assault is not OK,” Barber said.

She said that observing Denim Day is one of many activities suggested by the Defense Department to raise awareness of sexual assault and has been part of the agency’s sexual assault awareness “toolkit” since 2005.

“We’re starting to see it in more and more military communities around the world,” she said.

On Friday “we’re asking for commanders to relax the uniform policy and allow soldiers to wear jeans,” Davison said. Civilians and family members are also encouraged to wear denim on Friday, she said.

Last year, about seven or eight Army units in Heidelberg and Mannheim, as well as the entire U.S. Army NATO Brigade, participated in the event, Barber said.

There were 3,192 sexual assaults involving U.S. servicemembers reported in fiscal 2011, 34 more than the previous year, according to an annual DOD report released last week. DOD officials, however, say they believe thousands more sexual assaults in the military go unreported.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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