By Michelle Johnson
April 28th, 2021 is Denim Day and as a survivor of sexual assault and military sexual assault, I will proudly wear my jeans.
When a person is robbed they aren’t shamed or victim blamed. The conversation isn’t uncomfortable and they are believed. Someone took something from them without their consent. It isn’t questioned why they were the target. When a person is sexually assaulted they are often shamed and victim blamed. The conversation is often uncomfortable and their story is questioned. Someone took something from them without consent yet their actions, or lack thereof, are brought under scrutiny.
While I understand the crime isn’t the same, why should either victim be treated differently? The answer is they shouldn’t. Denim Day is a perfect opportunity to have open conversations with family, friends, and your community about sexual assault. You can use Denim Day to bring awareness and education regarding facts versus myths.
Sexual assault does not discriminate. It happens to women, men and children. I would bet either you have been sexually assaulted, or you know someone who has. Wearing jeans in solidarity might just give that family member, friend, or neighbor the courage to take the first step and reach out.
For me, the sexual assaults weren’t just about the assaults, they changed the way I saw myself. I felt alone. I felt disgust and guilt that I was somehow to blame even though I had no control of what happened. The fear, shame, guilt and feeling unworthy left me with deep scars not visible to the eye but I knew they were there. I could see and feel them every day. After suffering in silence for almost 40 years, I had the courage to reach out and begin my own healing journey.
The journey hasn’t been easy and I work on it every day but it is so worth it. The scars I desperately tried to hide have been replaced with courage, love, kindness and happiness and I wear them proudly. I discovered that what I thought was the weakest part of me is actually the source of my strength and power: my voice. I will not only be wearing jeans for myself, but as a support for others that may not have found their voice yet.
Make a difference by wearing jeans! Show your support to survivors, educate yourself about sexual assault, and break the silence by having these conversations. It sounds simple but together, we can make a difference.