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Rape survivor Sarah Super 'Breaks the Silence,' pitches memorial for sexual assault victims

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Sarah Super wants you to know her name. She wants to break the silence.

Super is a rape survivor. She was attacked in her home in February by an ex-boyfriend. 

Many people with similar stories never share their experience publicly — they choose not to identify themselves. But Super joined MPR News' Tom Weber to talk about why she didn't stay quiet.

"The most important part of breaking the silence is the person's name — a survivor's name," Super said. "One in five women are rape survivors, and yet so many people think they don't know a rape survivor. I think there's a problem with that."

"If we knew people's names, if we really recognized the fact that we are surrounded by survivors of rape, survivors of sexual violence, I think it would change the way in which we approach the issue and the sense of urgency that we have to change it." 

She recognizes that some victims don't feel safe enough to share their own names — a reality that may be tied to how many perpetrators are never tried or convicted.

Super's attacker was sentenced to 12 years in prison, according to the Star Tribune. She underlined how rare that is. "Only three percent of rapists ever get held accountable," Super said.

Breaking the silence

In the aftermath of the February attack, Super became involved with Break the Silence events, which provide a space for survivors of sexual assault to share their stories and connect with others. Inspired by what she experienced at these gatherings, she is trying to create a permanent place to honor the strength of survivors.

On Tuesday, she will present a formal proposal to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to create a memorial for rape survivors at Boom Island Park. The proposal includes a circle of benches, designed to invite conversation and reflection.

Those conversations can be difficult, Super acknowledged, but the statistics show they are a necessity. In 2005, the Minnesota Department of Health estimated that 61,000 Minnesotans were sexually assaulted.

Super offered advice for how to begin to talk about it.

"The first thing you can say to a rape survivor is: 'I'm sorry that happened to you,'" Super said. "By saying those words, you're showing some compassion, you're validating that it happened, and you're saying that it happened to you — that you are not to blame, that you are a victim in this experience." 

To listen to the full discussion with Sarah Super, use the audio player above.