By Naima Abdi
Snapshots allow us to instantly freeze life’s moments, spread a message or deliver a feeling. For victims of sexual abuse involved with Project Unbreakable, capturing an image is a way to promote awareness about the reach of sex crimes and regain power lost from experiencing unimaginable brutality and trauma. Created last October by Photographer Grace Brown, a 19-year-old
student at New York’s School of Visual Arts, Project Unbreakable is a Tumblr that displays pictures of abused men and women holding up a poster board with a quote from their attacker.
The Project started out as an assignment for school but has quickly evolved into a global initiative with healing through art as the underlining mission. As one of the most underreported crimes, sexual abuse and assault in the United States occurs nearly every 2 minutes and claims about 213,000 victims each year. According to a 2005 study from the U.S. Department Of Justice 73% of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim and 60% of attacks go unreported. Though the majority of rape victims are women and children under 12 years of age, nearly 2.78 million men in the U.S. have experienced rape or sexual abuse.
With the large percentage of victims barred from reporting attacks by shame or secrecy, Project Unbreakable serves not as a self-help blog, but instead as a community to share and acknowledge the pain inflicted. There’s a mix of snapshots taken by Brown as well as visitor submitted images from all over the world. The series of images on the site present the diverse dimensions of sexual abuse and assault in a telling way that resonates with victims, advocates and on-lookers. Brown first got the idea after listening to a friend’s story about sexual abuse and after giving it careful thought, she decided to photograph her friend lifting up words from her abuser on a sign.
“I’m 19 and people look at me with such trust. I just feel honored. It’s so brave of them to be able to write down something that is so painful; to dig deep down into such a terrible memory. It’s a different way of healing,” said Brown in an interview with The
Guardian. So far, she’s taken nearly 3-dozen photos and has a growing number of people interested in getting their experience captured. Currently she posts the cities she’ll be in to take photographs of participants for the blog and asks survivors that want to get their photo taken to email her. Endorsement of the project is swelling by the moment and seemingly the possibilities for
increased outreach seems likely as the blog moves forward and confronts such a widespread issue.
For more information and to see more of Grace’s work go to http://projectunbreakable.tumblr.com/