Passing notes in secret is a harmless game to most kids looking for a way to share covert information about the cute boy in class or something mean about a mutual friend.

For Boulder resident Jocelyn Schur, 22, passing notes was a way to avoid talking to her family about a tough topic.

At age 8, Schur was sexually abused by a family member. For months, Schur said she was manipulated into playing games that involved "touching body parts" and other sexual acts that, as a child, she didn't realize were inappropriate.

For years, Schur said she repressed the memories and had convinced herself that it was only a nightmare, until one day her mother found a journal entry that described the abuse.

"She was frantic, asking me questions about it and I was just numb, not ready to talk about it or really address it honestly," Schur said. "So we would sit in the same house, rooms apart and send emails to each other or slide notes underneath the door so we didn't have to talk about it face-to-face. I would write emails or notes from rooms inside the same house where the abuse took place."

Schur said the secrecy made her want to continue hiding her pain. The less she talked about it, the more alone she felt.

But Schur is not alone.

Every 2 minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted, according to a report from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

Schur said she began to heal once she moved out of her childhood home on the east coast to go to college, where she was encouraged to share her story.

"At first it was therapeutic for me to tell people," Schur said. "I kept doing it because I saw how much it was helping other people who had been through something similar, to help them see that they weren't alone."

"Courage is contagious," she said.

Schur will be sharing her story this month at local events surrounding Sexual Assault Awareness month, including a kick-off rally at the State Capitol Tuesday for National Sexual Assault Awareness Day of Action.
Matthew Clark looks over the Denim Day exhibit sponsored by the Gender Justice League on Monday April 2, 2012 on the CU Boulder Campus.
Matthew Clark looks over the Denim Day exhibit sponsored by the Gender Justice League on Monday April 2, 2012 on the CU Boulder Campus. (Paul Aiken)


Other upcoming events include a black-and-white photography exhibit on Thursday, a survivor gathering for men on April 21 and a writing group on April 28. Visit ccasa.org for more events.

Students at the University of Colorado installed an exhibit on the Boulder campus Monday that displayed more than 100 pieces of denim decorated with anti-assault messages.

One denim patch read "drinking is not a crime, rape is," and included a painting of a woman drinking a glass of wine.

A pair of short cutoff jeans read "Are these short enough for ya," painted on one leg and "never," on the other.
 
CU senior Meg Staires said the messages are a response to a 1998 Italian court case which overturned a rape conviction, citing the victim's tight jeans as evidence that the victim must have helped the attacker remove her pants.

"We want to get the word out about victim blaming," Staires said. "It doesn't matter if the victim was drinking or wearing a certain type of clothing. Rape is rape."

The Denim Days display will hang on the math quad, west of the Leeds School of Business and on the Women and Gender Studies cottage near Broadway and Pennsylvania Avenue through the end of the week.

The Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault will host a Denim Days fashion show on April 25. 

Staires said the denim decorating parties in preparation for the display gave victims and allies an outlet to express their concerns -- or talk about their personal experiences with others.

"This has been a way for people to talk about what they experienced, or what their friends went through in an anonymous way," Staires said.

Schur said casual is the theme of the month's events, allowing assault survivors and allies to unite without the pressure of sharing their stories.

Schur is currently writing a book about her experience, hoping that someone will connect with her story. But she said she realizes that not everyone is prepared to talk about their experiences.

"A lot of the events allow people to just come and sit in the audience and listen," Schur said. "Sometimes just hearing that others have gone through the same thing as you is all it takes to start the healing process."