Sexual Assault Survivors Hold Silent Vigil to 'Break The Silence'

Steve Miller
April 26, 2019 - 4:54 pm

Steve Miller/WBBM


CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Several dozen women who say they are survivors of sexual assault stood in silence on Federal Plaza at noon today. Hand written signs, homemade t-shirts and buttons spoke loudly for the silent survivors, who gathered in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Forty years ago, Susan Nolan of Antioch was living in Chicago, working at her uncle's print shop. She was 16 years old.

"Walking to the bus station I was grabbed and brought into this man's car," Nolan said, who was at the event. "And then assaulted."

For the past dozen or so years, Nolan has stood vigil with other sexual assault survivors — standing silent.

Her father used to stand with her but after his death, her cousin Jim Matrasko swept in as sidekick and has been at her side since.

"For this to happen to my cousin, who was always a sweetheart like you see her now, and you look at these other women — what could they have possibly done to warrant it?" Matrasko said.

Susan Nolan and Jim Matrasko are strong supporters of sexual assault awareness. (Steve Miller/WBBM)

Many of those at the vigil are associated with Resilience, a not-for-profit that advocates for assault victims. Stephanie, 29, who prefers that we not use her last name, is a sexual assault survivor and shared her story. 

"I had accepted a ride home from someone I knew," Stephanie said. "I had been a bit intoxicated. Instead of taking me home, that person raped me."

She says she was 26 when she was raped. Now she is active in Resilience, which used to be called Rape Victim Advocates.

"I think that they do help you move from feeling like a victim and feeling very alone to feeling like a survivor," she said. 

Stephanie is active with the nonprofit that put on the vigil, Resilience. (Steve Miller/WBBM)

Nolan talks about her rape 40 years ago and said that even though it was a long time ago, that does not diminish its validity.  

"In some people's minds, (they) might think that was a small situation, it's not a big deal. In your head, it was," she said.

"It touched your spirit, your heart and your body.  And all three of those things need to get back in line with living."

Nolan's T-shirt reads: "In 1979 he used fear and dominance to rape me.  In 1979, I used strength and courage to save me.  Break the Silence."

Women gathered in silence at Federal Plaza to support sexual assault survivors. (Steve Miller/WBBM)