The indictment of Smith Johnson comes on Denim Day. It’s a yearly event that brings attention to sexual harassment, abuse, assault and rape.
Rockford University hosted a forum where city leaders and advocates discussed the issue that has become all too common across the forest city.
Sexual assault is more common than people think, since it often goes unreported and with a lot of myths about the crime, leaving people unsure about what sexual assault actually is.
The Denim Day forum aimed to dispel any false information or answer any questions students may have on sexual assault.
“Sexual predator, a rapist’s, biggest ally is an unaware, quite community,” Jennifer Cacciapaglia, Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Prevention, said.
The Denim Day forum at Rockford University is directly combatting that issue by informing the community about sexual assault.
More than 200 students filled the room to listen to a panel of experts whose aim was to let survivors know they’re not alone.
“There’s people who may have experienced it,” Brittany Bihun, a junior at Rockford University, said. “I personally just know some people from experiences and stuff like that, so it’s a very heavy topic.”
Bihun then said, “a lot of things could happen very fast and no one knows yes and nos and stuff like that, so to learn about it here I feel like it’s a very important thing for us to learn”
“We have got to shine a light on this and bring it forth so that we can have honest, difficult conversations and make a change in our culture and our community in how we address this crime and support survivors,” Cacciapaglia said.
In Rockford, about 150 sexual assault cases are reported each year, but police know the real number of the crime is much higher.
“What we know is that’s just a small portion because we believe over half of those sexual assaults that occur go unreported to police,” Lieutenant Kurt Whisenand, Rockford Police Department, said. “They’re blaming themselves, they’re blaming the situation they put themselves in, they’re blaming themselves for trusting that person, they would have to relive every time they retell that story that have to live through that trauma.”
Lt. Whisenand says while anyone, man or woman, at any age has the potential to become a victim, it’s important to reach out to college kids to make sure they know the facts and that survivors know it’s not their fault
“It doesn’t matter what the victim’s state of mind was, what activity she was involved in, what her level of sobriety was, what her past activities have been,” Lt. Whisenand said. “If she does not consent to that act, then it is a crime.”
One resource available at all times for survivors of sexual assault is the National Sexual Assault Hotline. It’s available 24/7. The number is 1-800-656-4673.