Janet Yassen helped build the first rape crisis center in Massachusetts and went on to become an international consultant on preventing rape and sexual violence. Arriving in Boston in 1972 with a history of activism in civil rights and the women’s movement, Yassen joined the newly formed Rape Crisis Center group and helped open the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center the following year. The group created important models for clinical practice, support groups, and social policy on rape and violence against women. Yassen then pursued a degree in social work through Boston University and created a women’s studies course there that became a regular part of the social work curriculum. Over time, Yassen shifted her focus from sexual violence response to prevention, working with both victims and perpetrators to better understand the context and causes of sexual violence. In 1986, she began working at the Victims of Violence program at Cambridge Hospital, where she served as Crisis Services Coordinator. She was also a faculty member at Harvard Medical School, a part of the Massachusetts Statewide Sexual Abuse task force, a board member of the Women’s Alcoholism Program, and a part of a multicultural supervision group through Visions, Inc. She has served as an international consultant in places such as Israel, the former Yugoslavia, Belfast, Japan, Canada, and the Hague. In 2012 the Boston University School of Social Work awarded her for an outstanding career in social work. As of 2023 she is an affiliate of the Cambridge Health Alliance Center for Mindfulness and Compassion.
Janet Yassen was honored at the 2003 Women Who Dared event in Boston.