Breaking Out of the Silence

By Amanda Hedgecock, Breaking Out, Duke University

*This post contains information about sexual assault that may be triggering to some readers.*

In 2012, a group of Duke students started a new initiative called Breaking Out to raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual assault on our campus. Four years later, the 2016 edition of Breaking Out exploded, going viral and receiving over 4.3 million views in a few weeks.

Duke Support and Develle Dish, two student organizations dedicated to helping survivors on campus, led the charge for this photo campaign. In addition to the far-reaching online presence, the exhibit was also on display in the Duke University Bryan Center where hundreds of passersby stopped to read the stories of the 22 student survivors.

We were taken aback by how many people we reached and how many people wanted to get involved.  Within days of our 2016 launch, students at James Madison University and Rhodes College started organizing their own Breaking Out-inspired campaigns. After going viral, we at Duke Breaking Out are spearheading a nationwide campaign to make the most impact towards our mission of “Encouraging healing through art, and countering the culture of silence that shames, blames and isolates survivors of sexual violence”. By the start of this upcoming school year, we will have a guidebook prepared to help students launch effective campaigns for campuses around the country.

Breaking Out has been so important to me because it got people talking about what they could do to help survivors on my campus and prevent sexual violence in the first place. My best friend—aka my younger sister—heads off to college this fall. I feel compelled to do whatever I can to ensure her college experience is filled with academic discoveries, personal growth, and meaningful conversations, not sexual violence. The first step in this fight is to spread awareness. There’s a long fight ahead, and the students at Breaking Out are determined to use our platform to make change.

Check out the full Breaking Out site here to support more survivors like these Duke students.

Email to be added to the list of recipients for our coming Breaking Out guidebook.