Survivors Project

Their Stories

These stories represent individual accounts of survival after sexual violence and abuse. Each woman and man talks about the horror they endured and discusses their journey to find continued healing and support. While every story's arch varies, they all share a commonality of strength, community and, at their core, survival.

"I now feel connected to all of the other people in this project even though I’ve never met them," Lisa Posso said. "Just by watching their stories and listening to their stories, and hopefully they’ll feel the same way. It’s important to know that you’re strong, you’re a survivor."

How the Survivors Project Got Started

Almost three years ago, several women approached NBC 5's Marion Brooks wanting to tell their stories of survival after becoming victims of sexual violence.

Much like those in the #MeToo movement that would follow years later, these courageous survivors didn't want their faces hidden or their names changed. They wanted to share their stories to help others, because the stories of previous survivors had helped them.

And so the Survivor's Project began – and grew.

Since its debut, the Survivors Project has been re-launched twice with new stories and more resources, ranging from support networks and counseling services to research and statistics, as well as ideas for therapy and healing.

It quickly doubled in size, with more survivors coming forward. We hope the project will continue to evolve and grow as a destination and source of support for those who need it.

"The Survivors Project was and will continue to be helpful for me," said Olivia Cowan, who was sexually abused by the former Olympic Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. "After I checked out the project, I knew that I had to be a part of it. Because there were a lot of lonely nights that I lay awake in bed feeling like I was the only person feeling this way. Hearing their stories and being able to connect to them is so comforting. And such a beautiful resource for the world."


Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA) is a non-profit organization of sexual assault crisis centers. It has 30 centers across the state, each of which operates a 24-hour hotline to provide services including counseling education and advocacy.
Rape Victim Advocates (RVA) is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the healing and empowerment of sexual assault survivors through non-judgmental crisis intervention counseling, individual and group trauma therapy, and medical and legal advocacy in the greater Chicago metropolitan area. RVA Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline: 1-888-293-2080
Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) works in prevention, policy reform, community engagement and legal services to combat sexual exploitation in all forms, including sexual assault and the commercial sex trade.
Porchlight Counseling is a program under the Center for Law and Social Work (, which provides free counseling for sexual assault survivors of sexual assault on college campuses. It also provides a helpline number 773-750-7077.
The Voices and Faces Project describes its mission as one “to create a national network of survivors willing to stand up and speak out about sexual violence.” It also sponsors writers workshops to help survivors tell their stories and find support.
C4 counseling services helps people overcome mental health problems and disorders and the trauma of sexual assault and abuse. We provide services at four locations in Chicago. We also offer advocacy for people with mental health problems.
Chicago Children Advocacy Center - Its website describes Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center as a front-line responder in Chicago to reports of child sexual abuse, as well as reports of physical abuse of children under age 3. Since opening in 2001, it has served more than 30,000 children. ChicagoCAC is the city’s only not-for-profit organization that coordinates the efforts of child protection staff, law enforcement professionals, family advocates, medical experts and mental health clinicians under one roof.
Pillars Community Health provides many community services including “legal advocacy, crisis intervention and other services for victims of sexual violence." Pillars' 24-hour sexual assault hotline: 708-482-9600
"MY Self" - This book was written by Kelley Kitley who tells her story of survival after being assaulted in Chicago after walking home from work. It can be purchased here.
Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) describes itself as the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. It also operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE and En Espanol:
Website by Jim Hopper, Ph.D
Dr. Jim Hopper describes himself as a clinical psychologist and independent consultant, Teaching Associate in Psychology, Harvard Medical School and nationally recognized expert on psychological trauma. Dr. Hopper’s website has a great deal of information and source material on sexual abuse and other trauma.
Archdiocese of Chicago’s Healing Garden
As part of the Ken Kaczmarz settlement, the Archdiocese of Chicago agreed to create a memorial to victims of priest sex abuse. The Healing Garden is that memorial.

Larry Nassar statement in court

Larry Nassar Statement:

"It's just a short statement. Your words these past several days -- their words, your words -- have had a significant emotional effect on myself and has shaken me to my core. I also recognize that what I am feeling pales in comparison to the pain, trauma, and emotional destruction that all of you are feeling. There are no words that can describe the depth and breadth of how sorry I am for what has occurred. An acceptable apology to all of you is impossible to write and convey. I will carry your words with me for the rest of my days."

Institutional Responses to the Larry Nassar case:

USOC Statement

"USA Gymnastics is deeply sorry that Olivia Cowan or any athlete was hurt by the horrific actions of Larry Nassar. We are indebted to the brave women who came forward and have made our sport safer by speaking out against the horrific acts of Larry Nassar. USA Gymnastics is one of the organizations that let them down, and we are working to regain their trust and that of the entire gymnastics community. USA Gymnastics is committed to making meaningful changes to foster a safe, positive and encouraging atmosphere for our athletes and all members. We will continue to prioritize our athletes’ safety and well-being and acting in the best interests of the greater gymnastics community."

"We are deeply sorry for the abuses Larry Nassar has committed, and for the trauma experienced by all sexual assault survivors. Sexual abuse, assault and relationship violence are not tolerated in our campus community.

MSU continues to work diligently to create a campus community where all members feel safe to study and work free from the threat of sexual misconduct and relationship violence. At the same time, we want to make sure that when survivors of sexual assault or relationship violence come forward, they are treated with respect, listened to and that we provide the appropriate supports throughout the reporting process. We recognize improvements needed to be made and are taking actions to move the campus community forward. For more information on our efforts, please visit"


THE MICHIGAN STATE APPELLATE DEFENDER OFFICE: State Appellate Defender Office statement regarding Lawrence Nassar’s appeals, December 17, 2018

Michigan's State Appellate Defender Office is the public defender for appeals, appointed to represent Dr. Nassar on his state criminal convictions.

On December 13, 2018, the Court of Appeals agreed to consider whether Dr. Nassar is entitled to resentencing in the Ingham County case only based on the issue of whether Judge Rosemarie Aquilina was biased and partial when she handled Dr. Nasser's sentencing. The Court of Appeals also agreed to consider whether Judge Aquilina should have been disqualified from hearing Dr. Nassar’s motion for resentencing for similar reasons.

We are pleased that the cases have moved along to the next step toward an ultimate determination of whether the judges followed the law in imposing sentences in these cases. While no one should be above the law in our country it is also important for us to remember that no one should be beneath the law either. It is in the most difficult cases that we must be especially vigilant to ensure that the rule of law prevails.

Defendants, victims and the public at large need to know the legal system is fair.


Share Your Story

Each survivor who spoke to Marion said that hearing others' stories of survival was integral to their own healing. It made them feel more connected and less alone. "I really wanted to share my story with everyone in order to help others," Kelly Sommers said. "Something that really helped me heal was finding other survivors and hearing their stories and their accounts to know that you are not alone. Email Marion