RIVER FALLS – On the evening of Monday April 18, about 100 people gathered at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls to listen to the story of Sarah Super, a sexual assault survivor. Super discussed her assault and ways to raise awareness about the issue.

April is sexual assault awareness month. The event was hosted by the Office of Student Involvement to support awareness.

Super, who is a board member of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, began the event by describing her attack in Feb. 2015 in Minneapolis. 

Returning home from a vacation she was unaware her ex-boyfriend had broken into her apartment and hid the closet. She awoke in the middle of the night to find him holding a knife at her throat. Super was raped.

After being told to get dressed she made an excuse to use the bathroom. On the way to the bathroom she bolted out the front door and screamed for help, her assailant right behind her waiving the knife. 

She was able to find safety in her neighbors unit until her ex-boyfriend fled. The police were called and Super had to give a statement.

“I didn’t realize it at the time but I was filing a criminal complaint with the state,” Super said. “The police informed me this was much more serious than I thought it was.  

The ex-boyfriend was arrested later that night. He pled guilty and received a seven year sentence. 

Upon his conviction Super said a strange thing happened. She said his family was asking for support.

“I was outraged,” Super said. “He was getting all this sympathy when he was the one who committed the crime.”

Sarah Super.jpg

In 2015 Super founded "Break the Silence", an organization that helps victims with sexual assault.

Super did receive sympathy from friends, family and her community. Super said the assailant was still getting the support while she remained anonymous. She decided she had enough and in August 2015 she founded Break the Silence.

Break the Silence is an organization where sexual assault victims can share their stories. Super realized her experience was similar to others.

“At the first few meetings I noticed nearly all the victims were also being left in the dark,” Super said.

Super found healing after she began to speak about her sexual assault experience. She said others have found healing by sharing their stories too. 

“Most victims never get the chance to share their stories because they are scared to come forward,” Super said. “By establishing a community where people can share their stories it helps them heal.”

Sexual assault is one of the least reported crimes in the United States, Super said. She added the Centers for Disease Control reported more than 1 in 3 women and nearly 1 in 4 men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes. 

In the coming years Break the Silence would expand from sharing stories to educating survivors about coping with traumatic events. Super said the program also works to dismantle the myth women are weak and not strong enough to take action. 

This culminated in Oct. 2020 when the Survivor Memorial was built in Minneapolis. Located at Boom Island Park, the memorial serves as a reminder to survivors they are not alone. Super said the memorial is the first of its kind in the country.

Super wanted to advocate further, taking the issue to Minnesota legislation. In Sept. 2021 the state of Minnesota declared Sep. 15 “Break the Silence” day. 

Super said after Sept. 15 Minnesota legislation would abolish the statute of limitations for sexual assault cases. Super said this legislation will encourage women to come forward in reporting their crimes. 

“To get legislation like this passed was huge,” Super said. “I’m excited for where this movement is going.”

 

 

(1) comment

Jana Goodermont

The memorial on Boom Island is a story told through mosaic sculptures, capturing the emotions of a healing process using art and spoken word. A worthy destination!

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