An ex-boyfriend raped Sarah Super at knifepoint in February. She knows many rape victims are blamed - "Did she lead him on?" "Was it misunderstanding around consent?" Police and hospital evidence erased any doubt about his guilt. For that, she believes she is in a stronger position than most victims are - a "victim of privilege."

She was in her Summit Avenue apartment when he attacked her. He had broken into her apartment through a window and hid earlier in the evening while she was gone. Super had warned neighbors and friends of her fear of him. When she ran screaming from her apartment, a neighbor let her in.

At his sentencing in July, the judge rejected the defense that the rapist - a white man who grew up in Edina - was just a nice guy who snapped. The judge told Alec Neal, 31, he needed to look past his friends and supporters who said "that's not who you are." "You can go on and pretend that this wasn't you," she told him in court, "but this was planned."

Super, 26, said she is a victim of privilege because, "My case is exempt of all doubt - the blame and shame that can affect so many rape cases. And, with privilege comes responsibilty."

The tipping point for Super came a few months after the rape as she awaited the trial.

The "weight of silence" hit her when she realized that as an unnamed victim, people who might otherwise support her did not know her story.

"There is no lack of funding for cancer research because everyone knows someone who's been affected by it. Our failure as a society to respond to the needs of sexual assault victims is partly because we don't think we know a survivor," Super says.

According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, published in 2014, nearly 2 million U.S. women are raped each year.

"Silence supports the rapist," she added. "Supporting a rape survivor requires people to learn about the nature of trauma - giving back the power the rapist abused and the trust the rapist betrayed," she says.

Super is using her background in trauma yoga and leadership to create a community network on behalf of sexual assault victims, including building a memorial to survivors in Minneapolis. She hosts events that give voice to survivors who have not felt comfortable going public - often because of the invalidating cloud of doubt, shame and blame that tends to follow rape cases.

Since going public with her story, Super has heard from at least 100 assault survivors. "Social change happens when the marginalized and oppressed tap into their immeasurable strength as a collective," Super says. "The survivors who are breaking the silence know this strength and are acting with immense courage. These are the true leaders in our community - the ones who will allow other survivors to follow. The ones who will make change happen."


BE A CHANGEMAKER:
Sarah Super is creating a "Break the Silence" movement. In addition to featuring community events, a Facebook page spotlights survivors who have gone public. Learn more at www.facebook.com/breakthesilenceday. To contribute to a memorial to be built for women who have been victims of sexual assault: tinyurl.com/rapesurvivorsmemorial