Minneapolis Star Tribune
As soon as the first chord was struck on the upright piano, a woman put her hand to her chest and gulped in the air in the tiny church rehearsal room. When she let her breath out, tears came with it.
Three more somber chords, repeated twice, and then a small choir began to sing: “You tell me it gets better, it gets better in time.” Moments later, the words turned defiant and the voices grew louder: “Tell me how the hell could you know?”
The woman nodded in seeming agreement, then added her quavering voice to a chorus made up of 12 sexual assault survivors. By the end of the tune, Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens to You,” three boxes of tissues were circulating around the room.
This singing group for sexual assault survivors serves as an artistic and communal microphone, giving victims of violence a voice. Inspired by vocal ensembles of gay men in the 1980s — a time when many remained in the closet — Sarah Super formed Survivor Voices this summer.
Super, an outspoken rape survivor from St. Paul, has lent her face to a movement to humanize victims of sexual violence. She has spoken and written about her experience being raped by an ex-boyfriend, and by going public, she’s drawn an extensive social media following of other survivors looking to connect.
A year ago, Super founded Break the Silence Day, an event where survivors publicly tell their stories. This year’s event will be on Aug. 17, a date she successfully lobbied the city of Minneapolis to recognize.
Now Super, who also teaches yoga to people who have experienced trauma, has created an opportunity for survivors to come forward in another way: through song.