MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — The newly-crowned Miss Michigan plans to use her platform to support survivors of sexual assault.
Emily Sioma of Grass Lake was crowned Miss Michigan 2018 on Saturday in Muskegon. The 24-year-old hopes that sharing her story of campus sexual assault will raise awareness of the issue and encourage other survivors to be proud of their recovery journey, the Muskegon Chronicle reported.
Sioma said standing in silent protest at her University of Michigan graduation in 2016 was a defining moment that led her to advocate on behalf of sexual assault survivors for the Miss Michigan Scholarship Pageant.
Sioma stood among thousands of seated students wearing her commencement cap painted in teal with the words, “I survived,” a reference to her sexual assault experience.
“For me, that was, at the time, the hardest thing I had ever done,” Sioma said of her protest. “I was met with so much torment in that moment that I realized, this is going to be a hard battle I’m going to be fighting for the rest of my life, but if I don’t start now, who’s going to do it?”
She plans to spend her year as Miss Michigan partnering with organizations across the state to bring more resources to survivors wherever there are gaps.
“My story is just one story, and as similar as it is to a lot of peoples’ stories, it’s so, so different from so many other experiences with sexual violence,” Sioma said. “Being able to bring in race, gender, socioeconomic status — all of those things compound together to affect the way that you can find justice and affect the way you can find empowerment through recovery.”
Sioma will also compete in the Miss America Scholarship Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in September.