According to A Health Survey of Texans: A Focus on Sexual Assault, "nearly 2 million Texans have been sexually assaulted. Of that, it means one in five women and one in 20 men have been sexually assaulted.
In order to combat that alarming statistic, in Texoma, First Step, the domestic violence shelter, is taking their efforts to the next level with Denim Day.
Denim Day is an annual, national celebration that occurs just once a year. This year however, First Step of Wichita Falls is dedicating the entire month of April to the rape awareness campaign. They're celebrating Denim Days each Wednesday.
The month of April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Here's how it works: to celebrate awareness and promote education in Texoma, during April 2012, First Step is asking local businesses and corporations to encourage employees to wear denim jeans to work in exchange for a $2 donation to First Step.
Edith Justice, First Step Volunteer Coordinator, explained to Newschannel 6, "What we're hoping to do is be on the fundraising aspect of it to raise awareness of sexual assault, because it's a taboo subject that doesn't always get discussed enough."
Edith Justice stressed that she wants victims of sexual assault to know that there is help out there for them; that there are resources readily available and specifically intended for their use.
Newschannel 6 Brittany Glas sat down with Charlotte Marsh for a special interview. Marsh was only 18 years old when she was raped the summer of 1960, after high school graduation. Marsh shared her personal survival story.
Marsh, 70, said the night she was raped by her boyfriend at the time, he dropped her off at her house afterward, but she did not want to go inside. She said she wanted to wait until her parents fell asleep because she was so ashamed about what just happened to her. The next day, Marsh said, her boyfriend apologized numerous times for what he had done, but told Marsh that if she told anyone, he would deny it.
Charlotte Marsh went on to college as she had planned and three months after she was raped, she found out she was pregnant.
Marsh told Newschannel 6 what it was like, under those circumstances, during the 1960s. It was a time, she said, where women did not have resources, unlike today. "It was considered that a girl or woman could not be raped. That she asked for it. And that's what my mother told me," explained Marsh.
Marsh said her mother demanded that she have an abortion. Marsh said she could not do that. Marsh's father simply avoided any conversation about what happened. Instead, Marsh's parents shipped her to an unwed mother's home in a different state to deliver her baby. The home set up her closed adoption. Marsh delivered her baby there, spent three days with the baby, and left to continue living life as if nothing had happened.
Marsh was so ashamed about being raped, she never told anyone about it, except for her parents and an older brother. She never told her late husband about it either. "I lived with that secret until I was 67 years old," said Marsh.
That is, until about four years ago... After her husband died unexpectedly, she said she found Jesus Christ and he led her on a journey. A journey, Marsh said, she is still on.
She told her children about her secret first, and now, Marsh shares her story with other women dealing with similar experiences to help and empower them. Marsh said it wasn't until she was 66 years old that she realized that being raped was not her fault.
She began volunteering for a number of organizations in Wichita Falls, including First Step and Interfaith Ministries. Marsh said she knows what she has to do with her experience: share it to strengthen others. Marsh said, "I can speak out. I can share my story with people because I feel that's my journey."
Charlotte Marsh is actively encouraging Texomans to get involved and support Denim Days.
If you're interested in learning more about how the annual event got started and why, read the following excerpt from a 2012 First Step press release. Here's a brief explanation:
"So, what are Denim Days? In 1998, the Italian Supreme Court over-turned a ruling against a man convicted of rape. The court decided that since the victim had been wearing 'very tight' jeans, the alleged attacker could not possibly have taken the jeans off without help from the victim, and therefore no rape occurred. This court action brought about an immediate outcry from people in Europe and the United States. Currently, Denim Day is recognized nationwide. The first Denim Day was established in April 1999 in California. Denim Day is a rape awareness campaign."
If you want to help Charlotte Marsh in her continued efforts to spread a message about sexual assault awareness, by participating in Denim Days, or to learn more about volunteering, call or email Edith Justice, the Volunteer Coordinator for First Step, at (940) 723-7799 and/or email@example.com.
The final Wednesday of this month, April 25, is the nationally recognized Denim Day.