Sex-themed trivia, trauma-informed writing workshops and consent-focused dance lessons: Lehigh’s Break the Silence organization hosted a range of events throughout the semester to teach Lehigh students about the importance of consent.
Break the Silence is a peer education organization working to spread awareness about gender violence and sexual assault, as well as promote healthy and consensual sex through different campus events.
With April being National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Break the Silence plans to host several events with the theme of reconnecting consensually throughout the month.
Genevieve Powell, ‘25, a member of Break the Silence, said the organization’s goal is to make all students feel comfortable and prepared on the topic of sex, so that it can become a normalized topic of conversation.
“It can often seem so taboo to talk about sex … especially in a university environment,” Powell said. “We try (to) make sure everyone can talk about it outside of the club, not just within our own community.”
Powell said Break the Silence hopes to provide students with the necessary tools to practice healthy sex, no matter their differing experiences and levels of education.
“Many students are gathering most of their sex ed from pornography, which is not the best vessel to be learning from,” said Gia Occhiolini, ‘23, a member of the club. “We’re trying to counteract that but also meet people where they’re at, see what they know and add to that education.”
Break the Silence is made up of about 30 students, all of whom undergo 30 to 40 hours of training before facilitating the organization’s events. This includes conversations with on- and off-campus resources such as sexual assault forensic nurse examiners, Lehigh’s Counseling Center, Title IX coordinators, Turning Point of Lehigh Valley and the Lehigh University Police Department.
So far this semester, Occhiolini said Break the Silence events have had large turnouts and positive responses.
“I feel like our voices aren’t ignored, but they’re heard and celebrated and there’s not any judgment around it,” Occhiolini said.
Break the Silence events hosted throughout the spring semester have touched on various topics related to consent and healthy sexual experiences. For example, the group held 5 Senses of Consent, an event that included practicing consent non-intimately and non-sexually in the form of partnered dance lessons.
Occhiolini said many college students haven’t been taught how to ask for consent properly, so learning to ask to dance served as a good starting point.
On March 28, Break the Silence hosted Sex in the Dark, an evening of sex trivia, anonymous sex-themed Q&As and sex toy giveaways.
Ariel Majorczyk, ‘25, a member of Break the Silence, said attendees first might have been confused about winning sex toys at a school-sponsored event.
“I think people familiarizing themselves with (Break the Silence) events just helps them know that’s another aspect of campus that you might not see, but might want to get to know,” Majorczyk said.
Focusing on educating the campus on sexual assault and supporting survivors, Break the Silence is hosting several other events throughout the remainder of the month. Their upcoming events include Take Back the Write, co-hosted with the Center for Gender Violence Education & Support. The event will be a trauma-informed writing workshop focused on inner power and supporting assault survivors. Break the Silence will also be holding Take Back the Night March and Speak Out as a follow-up and the sLUt Walk, a demonstration reclaiming the word “slut.”
Aside from their events, Majorczyk said Break the Silence provides ongoing support and resources to challenge a culture that perpetuates gender violence, including facilitating presentations about gender-based violence to Greek chapters.
“We have a bunch of resources where you can try new things (and) explore on your own,” Majorczyk said. “Day by day if you want to try something new, looking at our office and our pamphlets, you’ll be able to find some information for a bit of guidance.”