April 27, 2017
Written by Meghan Marsden Parsche
Trigger warning: This post contains information about and recollections of sexual violence.
Annika Leonard is a sexual assault survivor. As part of her work and passion for helping others impacted by sexual violence, she speaks openly about her personal experiences. She wants to make sure that her own and others’ experiences are heard – and not “sanitized.”
Annika survived sexual assault as a child and in college. For her, Denim Day, celebrated on April 26 this year, is deeply personal.
“I wore denim on the day I was raped,” she wrote on Denim Day in 2012. “My jeans were ripped down my zipper to my crotch and the man I thought was my friend insisted he did not rape me. I don’t need to wear denim today. I stand with the victims of sexual assault every day. I sit with their experiences as an advocate and I comfort them as a friend.”
Annika is the owner of Priceless Incite, which she describes as a mobile service delivery provider. She responds to crisis calls and provides various services to individuals affected by sexual violence. She serves as a listening ear and advocate, making herself available to help in any way she can, including helping survivors with their resumes.
The other aspect of Annika’s business is youth education. She teaches a curriculum she created for high school students in Milwaukee Public Schools. Using a diamond as a metaphor for a young woman’s life, the curriculum is designed to encourage critical thinking, allowing young women to process their life experiences. Dating violence and sexual violence are addressed in the class, and her students have presented their work at conferences addressing topics like healthy teen relationships and teen violence.
It’s fitting, therefore, that Annika is organizing a new event called Denim, Diamonds and Pearls, dedicated to thanking young people who raise awareness about sexual assault. The event, which will take place on April 29, will feature brunch and certificates of appreciation for attendees.
“I want to make sure young people are heard, and I wanted to celebrate those who raise awareness on Denim Day,” explains Annika. “This event was designed to be youth-friendly and to encourage them to continue to be engaged members of our community.”
Coordination of the Denim, Diamonds and Pearls event and much of the work Annika does through Priceless Incite is on a volunteer basis. She also volunteers as the co-chair of the Sexual Assault subcommittee for the City of Milwaukee for two years. Additionally, Annika has two other jobs that help to pay the bills. Fueled by her personal experience and her passion for helping others, Annika continues her tireless work every day.
Thank you to everyone who supported survivors and helped raise awareness about sexual assault by wearing denim on Wednesday, April 26. Learn more by visiting Denim Day Milwaukee’s website and Facebook page.