April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)
One of the things that I want to do with this blog, besides making it a space genuine to myself, is to use it to share stories (my own for now, and hopefully in the future that of others as well) that will hopefully help empower and inform others.
One of the issues that I am very passionate about is raising awareness and advocating for survivors of sexual and domestic abuse. As an advocate and survivor, and much like with my miscarriage, I feel it is important to share my own story. I realize that doing this may not be for everyone. Not all survivors are able or willing to share their own stories of violence (or other personal traumas), and that is okay, it is not for everyone. You, the survivor know yourself best and are the expert of your own experience. You know if, and when, you are willing and able to share your story. It is yours, it belongs to you, you own it.
If you decide that you are at a place in your own personal healing where you feel ready to share your own story, I encourage you to do so. Be it in whatever manner and medium you deem it appropriate. Blog about it, create a YouTube channel, podcast, share it on a one to one relationship, or with a bigger audience, shout it from the rooftops. You may be like me and not be able to shut up about it once you start. You may see opportunities where you can use it to educate on sexual violence and advocate for survivors particularly in this month.
Storytelling is important, it informs, educates, normalizes and connects people and communities. Storytelling exposes issues that may otherwise have been kept in darkness, secret and shame. This is how it was for me personally, and I know that this is how it is for a lot of other survivors as well. Sexual assault and rape occur in a shroud of secrecy and shame. This is amplified by the fact that the majority of sexual assaults, rapes, are perpetrated by someone the victim knows. Contrary to what we see in the media, and to all the warnings that we are given at a young age, most sexual assaults are not occurring down dark alleys in strange cities.
Seven out of 10 sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows and trusts; family members, friends, partners, and other trusted and respected authority figures, and for victims under 18 that number goes up to 93% according to statistics found on the Rape and Incest National Network’s website. Because of the misinformation around sexual assault as well as society’s predilection for victim blaming, it is important that those of us who are able to, educate and advocate. Speak up, about yourself, for yourself and for others as well, be a voice for those who may have not found their voice just yet. Remove the shroud of shame many survivors wear and place that shame back on the perpetrator where it belongs. Support Survivors.
Of the various ways that you can support survivors, one of the biggest is believing them. Many survivors will share that one of the biggest things that can be done for them after an assault is simply saying these three words, “I believe you.” These three words can encompass so many things for a survivor. Within these three words, “I believe you,” survivors can find hope, love, support, and safety. Believing a survivor at face value can be instrumental in their healing. It can make the difference in a survivor’s transition from victim to survivor, and it lets the survivor know that they are supported. Getting involved in Denim Day is another way in which you can do this.
April 26th, 2017 is Denim Day.
Denim Day is a sexual violence prevention and education campaign. Since it’s inception in April of 1999, the Denim Day campaign has run on the last Wednesday in April in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The campaign was born out of the misconceptions and myths surrounding sexual assault, specifically triggered by the case of an 18-year old girl in Italy, 25 years ago. Her story is this; she is picked up by her married 45-year old driving instructor for her first lesson, he takes her somewhere isolated, he pulls her out of the car, removes her jeans, and then forcefully rapes her. He threatens to kill her if she tells anyone. She is then forced to drive back and complete the lesson. She tells her parents later that evening and the rape is reported. The perpetrator, the driving instructor, is arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to prison.
He appeals and eventually the guilty verdict is overturned by the Italian Supreme Court. The case is dismissed and he is released. The reason given by the Chief Judge was this, he 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.” So, because she wore tight jeans, there was no way, in the mind of the Court, that this 18 year old girl could be raped by this 45 year old man, a driving instructor, a married man, someone she more than likely, felt relatively comfortable around, someone she and her parents thought was trustworthy.
In protest of the of the overturned verdict, and in solidarity with the victim, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work the following day wearing jeans. This protest spread to California, where the Denim Day Campaign was developed by a Los Angeles Rape Crisis Agency, Peace Over Violence. Denim Day was a response to the case and the activism surrounding it, and continues to be so to this day. Wearing jeans on Denim Day has become a symbol of protest against destructive and false attitudes about sexual assault. Today the movement has spread to a global level. Communities all over the world wear jeans with a purpose on Denim Day, they are making a social statement with their fashion statement. On Denim Day we wear jeans to say that “There is Never an Excuse or Invitation to Rape.”
For survivors, Denim Day and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, are more than just another day to wear jeans, or another month with another ribbon (it’s teal by the way). What difference can one day, one ribbon and one pair of jeans make? Well for survivors like myself, who for years lived in the secrecy and shame of rape, who weren’t believed, for us, it makes a world of difference. It means that you are a potential ally, you are someone who I don’t have to explain myself to, you are someone who supports me, who believes me. Someone who won’t question what I did to get raped. But, rather, you will hold perpetrators accountable for their own actions, you will help dispel the myths around rape, or at the very least you will commit to educating yourself on sexual violence so that you can do these things in the future. But most importantly that you will BELIEVE and SUPPORT survivors.
For more information and how to get involved visit:
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, or for more information and resources please visit:
Rape and Incest National Network or to speak to a counselor 1800-656-HOPE
Peace Over Violence or to speak to a counselor 213-626-3393
If you’re a blogger or social media influencer who’d like to get involved and be part of my #BloggersOverViolence group on Denim Day, message me via the contact link on this site, or leave your email in a comment.