At the end of this past semester, I took a deep breath and participated in my university’s contribution to “Project Unbreakable”, a website started by 20 year old, Grace Brown, of Massachusetts that works to bring awareness to the issue of sexual assault through art. Survivors of sexual assault are photographed holding signs with quotations from their perpetrators or about their experience.
TRIGGER WARNING: This website features many disturbing quotes from attackers and perpetrators of sexual violence. It may be disturbing to individuals, and particularly triggering to those who have experience with sexual assault.
The Violence Against Women Prevention Program at my university sent out an email asking for volunteers willing to be photographed with a quotation from or about their experience. While I knew this would be a difficult task, I was determined to use the experience as a therapeutic and self-strengthening one, a challenge and a chance for reflection. It was more trying than I anticipated. I used to keep a journal- for seven years straight, from fourth grade through high school, I wrote in a journal every single night. It became a habit easily, then an obsession of sorts, and I was terrified that anything not put down in writing would be forgotten. It took me hours to search through notebooks and pages to find the day I was sexually assaulted. Maybe someday I’ll be brave enough to write more about my experience, but today is not yet that day.
I don’t remember anything he specifically said. It’s all kind of a blur and I used to obsess over whether my specific memories of that day were valid or if they had been manipulated over time. What I remember more than actions or words is the emotions the experience evoked in me. I chose to be photographed with two quotes, the second a statement of hope and power over perpetrators and the culture that condones and perpetuates their actions.
“We are all victims of the rape culture we live in. But if we can recognize this, we are also survivors.”
With love and hope – S