ENCINITAS — As early as her memory serves her she was abused. At age 13, she stopped the abuse only to become the victim of a date rape five years later. Now, at age 32, a woman using the name Sarah to conceal her identity fearing the stigma that is often associated with sexual abuse victims, is slowly taking her life back into her own hands.
Through the powerful mediums of the written and spoken word, art and fashion, local nonprofit organization Jeans 4 Justice is raising awareness and facilitating the healing that can occur in the lives of women and men who have long suffered in silence as victims of sexual abuse.
In Sarah’s case, it is working. “There is life after abuse,” she said resolutely. “My abuse no longer controls me but there are things about it that make me sad.” Sarah took scalding hot showers all of her life as a subconscious way to cleanse herself from the pain of abuse. Recently she began to cool the waters. “Turning the temperature down was healing,” she said. “I only did this in December. I went from scalding hot to normal.”
Her short story, like those of other local women, was inspiration for artists to create so-called wearable art jeans. The effort is part of collaboration between Jeans 4 Justice and other North County-based organizations and businesses to raise awareness about sexual abuse.
A powerful rendition of Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues” staged on April 7 served as the kickoff for the Jeans 4 Justice Conscious Co-op campaign for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. “We have been collecting stories from courageous women and men in our community who have experienced sexual violence first hand and are now shame-lessly sharing their stories to empower our community to speak out, stand up, and come together for peace, compassion, and freedom,” said Jess Johnson, Founder of Jeans 4 Justice.
“This show is incredibly special,” said Tanya Paluso, co-founder of Tribal Truth, the organization producing the show. “It is a deep introspection into the experiences of women from all over the world.”
“What is really powerful about this particular performance is that many of the cast members have experienced sexual and domestic violence in their own lives, and although their monologue readings reflect the experiences of sisters whom they have never met, they bring through the energy of their own stories, and couple it with an overarching message of courage, empowerment and peace,” Johnson said.
The new collaboration brings together retailers, artists, fashion designers and local sexual assault survivors who are committed to ending the cycle of violence by powerfully sharing their own experiences to generate awareness, engagement, transformation, leadership and action according to Johnson.
“This monthlong campaign is about empowering survivors to stand strong by stepping forward to have their stories be heard in hopes of preventing future acts of sexual violence,” she said. “We will draw from these stories as well as selected monologues from Eve Ensler’s ‘The Vagina Monologues’ and give them to local artists and designers, who will then transform them into one of a kind pieces of wearable art.”
Participating retailers will then display the jeans in their store window or visible display along with a hang tag containing a brief write-up of the survivor’s story and information on the artist or designer who crafted the story into art. Local participating retailers include Art n Soul, Detour Salon and Mogue & Rue.
Votes will be cast for people’s favorite jeans through the organization’s website. “The artist or designer with the most votes will have their work be incorporated into a limited edition line in the Fall 2011 Collection by Soul Sick Denim, and proceeds from denim sales jeans will go directly to our local programs to help educate young people about social change, leadership and sexual violence prevention,” Johnson said.
For more information, visit jeans4justice.org.