Ebony Johnson is a force to be reckoned with.
A 14-year Veteran of the United States Air Force, Senior Intelligence Analyst and Political Consultant active in Maryland elections, Ebony knows a thing or two about navigating transition.
Part of her incredible resiliency stems from surviving traumatic assault at the age of 15. Growing up in Philadelphia, Ebony was attacked in broad daylight in a public park by a serial rapist 30 years her senior. Onlookers stood by, wary of "getting involved in a domestic issue," a tragically common example of the bystander effect.
This act of senseless violence could have stood in Ebony's way from living a full and happy life. Through her recovery, she turned to her faith and giving back through service to create positive change instead.
But speaking out about her experience was never something Ebony felt comfortable doing. After all, as we saw with the recent case in Houston that resulted in compromising photos of 16-year-old Jada to go viral on the Internet, coming forward and speaking out about assault can be a double-edged sword.
"Whistleblowers are often incredibly badly treated," writes Helen Lewis, "even when they have sheaves of documents to prove wrongdoing."
But when Ebony found herself facing a recent career transition, she attended a weekend-long training that provide the time, space and supportive community to help find her voice and own her personal story. Her own experience, Ebony realized, would be an integral way to continue serving as a force for change.
"I found the confidence to use my voice," says Ebony, who in just a month afterwards organized the first annual Prince George's County Sexual Assault and Awareness forum, enabling critical communication between legislative officials, victims, and community advocates. "Thanks to the community of courage and assertive communication skills I built up," says Ebony, "I was able to not only find my voice but execute the plan."
And she has plenty more plans, too. Over the next year, Ebony is partnering with community organizations to establish a sexual assault crisis center in Prince George's County, MD, work with the Attorney General to improve the sexual assault policies on college campuses, and finally formulate and execute proper guidelines and procedures for better accountability with rape kits and their use in the prosecution of rape offenders.
Ebony says she is most passionate about inspiring others to accomplish their goals, always striving for the betterment of her community. Her decision to put her story out there involves taking a huge personal risk, she realizes, but ultimately it's this courage that helps erase the stigma of sexual assault.