Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center on Family Violence

12.15.17
My first silence breakers

The first silence breakers I encountered in any number participated in a mid-1980s study about sexual assault. We asked 3,131 women and men, Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites, "In your lifetime, has anyone ever tried to pressure or force you to have sexual contact? By sexual contact I mean their touching your sexual parts, your touching their sexual parts, or sexual intercourse?" It was one of the first sexual assault prevalence studies in the nation, and it included questions about disclosure – who they had told about the assault. I was struck then – and still am – by the fact that many victims said that they hadn’t told anyone. So why did they disclose to the interviewer? “Because you asked.” 

There are so many with stories to tell. 

As I said in the Ortner Center’s recent year-end letter, I am grateful for the women who are speaking up about sexual assault and harassment at work and I am heartened that they are being believed. I’m grateful that some of the men under long-delayed fire are taking responsibility for their behavior. And that more hotels are providing “panic buttons” to their housekeeping staff. It’s too early to tell if these past few weeks will be a turning point, but it is a source of optimism for me and many others.

Last week, TIME magazine named “The Silence Breakers” as their Person of the Year. And, coincidentally, the very same day, University of Pennsylvania students shared their stories of sexual assault via the student-run 34th Street magazine.  


Survivors of sexual assault are not alone. Far from it.

  • time person of the year

The online version of the TIME article is especially powerful -
access it here.

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The 34th Street magazine accounts
- both painful and poignant -
can be accessed here.