After their first year, most college students look to their summer vacation as a time to kick back, relax, and catch up with old friends from high school. Some take jobs or internships, and others take classes, but for most, the summer is a much less stressful, more low key time. There are those, however, who choose to spend their summer doing something more. Jessica Sundram, from Cornell University, is one such dynamic college woman. Her summer has been devoted to "Breaking The Silence", the name she has given to the book she is editing and the not-for-profit fund it will help establish.

The original idea behind Breaking The Silence was to give women a place to express (through artwork, poetry, essays, or prose) their thoughts and feelings on sexual violence against women, to end the silence about sexual violence "in one of the most powerful forms of human communication: the written word." Jessica embarked upon this project on April 25th, 1998. By June 10th, she had received over 200 hundred E-mail contacts, from 25 different states and 6 different countries. Included among these were over 100 hundred pieces on sexual violence. With this volume of response, Jess realized that she was reaching an audience greater then she had expected to--and that she would need some helping to continue on. And so, she created the Breaking The Silence Collective, which currently has over 20 members, in order to spread information about and plan the future of Breaking The Silence.

Then, she began work on the Breaking The Silence Fund, an organization which would give grants to rape crisis centers and domestic abuse awareness programs around the country. Currently, she is applying for not-for-profit status for the Fund.

In her own words, Jess has said that the idea for the book came to her when she "realized how much silence about the issue affected survivors lives and ESPECIALLY how people tend to underplay the incidences of violence against women in our society--it's always something that happens to somebody else.'"

Never someone to let a problem just pass by, Jess has thrown all her energy and countless hours into making a solution, not just for herself, but for all women. Indeed, one of her goals in editing the book was to make it as inclusive as possible, to illustrate that "sexual violence reaches beyond boundaries of race, class, sexual orientation, and nationality."

Copyright 1998 Moxie Magazine All Rights Reserved