Posts Tagged "Charlottesville"

The posters read:

"It wouldn’t hurt so bad if you just got wet" (I was crying. Not just because it hurt physically.)

But because I never said yes.

 

"I’m sorry, I thought you were [his daughter’s name]”

He was drunk.

Photographed in Charlottesville, VA on November 6th.

Additional Writing:

Every time I look at Unbreakable photos, my heart stops. My brain stops. I pause and take in the words on the poster and the beautiful strength of the survivor holding that poster and realize that very strength is why I’m still here. At 22, I’ve been the victim of sexual violence at the hands of four different perpetrators and while I once  (and sometimes still do) wondered how that was possible and if it was somehow my fault, it has become very clear the culture of silence and shame in which we live makes my experiences a very real possibility. If and when we do talk about sexual violence, we tend to do so with statistics. Thus, even with staggering numbers, we have the ability to separate ourselves from the traumatic reality of sexual assault. I ask you to go beyond that silence and those statistics. To look into the eyes of the survivors . To really hear the words on those posters. To sit with their pain for a moment.

 When you look straight into my eyes in the pictures Grace has taken of me, you can see the pain, suffering and heartbreak that comes with being the victim of sexual violence. You can see the anger around my eyes and my mouth. The weariness and exhaustion that comes with PTSD and constantly being on-guard is written all over my face. But, I am standing there and not afraid or ashamed to talk about that reality, my reality. My reality does include the words on those posters and the pain you see in those eyes, but did you know those eyes are my favorite part of my body? They light up the most beautiful blue when I see my best friend after a few months apart, when I’m fishing on the Kenai River catching huge salmon with my dad, and when I’m singing “Hello Everybody” while dancing in circles to make the two year old I nanny smile. Every day those eyes radiate joy, love, kindness, and compassion. My reality is that I’m human—I have both the ability to be hurt deeply and hurt others in that pain. But I also have the strength to overcome the hurt I’ve experienced and live boldly and love deeply because I am much more than just the trauma I have experienced.

Not talking about sexual violence and just looking at statistics allows society to forget survivors are still human and still sitting next to you in class, in church, on the bus, at dinner and in your office. Our humanity may have been taken from us, but we are fighting to get it back every single day. That fight becomes a little easier when the struggle is recognized as real and met with love and support; not completely swept under the rug or met with skepticism and attitudes that shame and blame us for what happened. If we want to drastically reduce the numbers surrounding sexual violence, we have to change the culture in which it proliferates. We have the power to begin to erase the culture of silence and shame that allows perpetrators of sexual violence, not the victims, to feel comfortable and supported.  We must start shifting conversations about sexual assault from simple statistics to the very real impact of sexual assault on the very real survivors, listening to their experiences, and supporting them as people deserving of the same love, understanding and compassion as anyone else. We have to realize, recognize and understand that no one asks to be sexually assaulted and everyone reacts to trauma differently and there is no script for a victim to follow. When we allow survivors to be human, we might begin to understand the deeper cultural implications of seemingly harmless “rape jokes”, see how using a phrase like “legitimate rape” is more than just a political gaffe, and recognize how normalized and embedded both victim-blaming and rape apology are in our society when journalists on major news networks make the tragedy of rape about what will happen to the rapists because they were found guilty and will be held accountable for their actions instead of about the rape itself. (Hint: the tragedy isn’t the perpetrators’ conviction; it is the crime they committed when they sexually assaulted another human being.) This is just the tip of the iceberg, but it is a start.  

To all survivors:  Unbreakable provides a community of people who want to hear your story and people who love and support you wherever you are in life.  Realizing you’re worthy of that love and support—and fully embracing that love, no matter what you’ve survived—is the strength of being unbreakable. 

Click here to learn more about Project Unbreakable. (trigger warning)

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The poster reads:

#1 “This will be our little secret” - Abuser #1

#2 “My dad said the man who did that to you should be horse whipped” - Best friend from 5th grade

#3 “You know you really liked it too” - Abuser #2

#4 “Well…He’s been convicted so you can just forget about it all now” -Mom

#5 “You are an incredibly strong person” - My Jazzercise Instructor

#6 “Your worth is so far greater than you can imagine" - My Cousin Edna

Photographed in Charlottesville, VA on November 7th.

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The poster reads:

"You invited me over and no you think you’re too fucking good for me?"

Photographed in Charlottesville, VA on November 7th.

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The poster reads:

"C’mon. Really. Didn’t you enjoy it?"

Photographed in Charlottesville, VA on November 7th.

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The poster reads:

Adult (male) family friend:

"Please, pretty please?"

17-year old me (after 10 years):

"I’m not doing this anymore."

Photographed in Charlottesville, VA on November 7th.

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The poster reads:

"I stay in the background to give you freedom."

What freedom? (age 13-17)

Photographed in Charlottesville, VA on November 7th.

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The poster reads:

"You’re too pretty to be a lesbian."

Photographed in Charlottesville, VA on November 7th.

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The posters reads:

"Are you sure?"

"That doesn’t happen here at UVA…" my "friends"

"You are so strong” my sister

Photographed in Charlottesville, VA on November 6th.

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The posters reads:

"Kiss me Goodnight"

Photographed in Charlottesville, VA on November 6th.

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The poster reads:

Once he was done, he said to me “I waited so long to finally have this. Shouldn’t you be happy?”

He raped me in the front seat of my car - 3 years later. He got what he wanted. I thought I got what I wanted - for it to be over. 

I was wrong.

But I still told him “yes”

Photographed in Charlottesville, VA on November 6th.

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The poster reads:

"Tranquila, Tranquila Besame"

(As he put the gun on the bed)

Photographed in Charlottesville, VA on November 6th.

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The poster reads:

"No one will ever believe you. I’m your husband and it’s your word against mine."

Photographed in Charlottesville, VA on November 6th.

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The posters read:

When I said I was a virgin: He said NOTHING 

When I said it hurt & begged him to stop:

He said, “That’s how it’s supposed to feel your first time. Just be still.”

When he was confronted:

"I am a man of God. I would never do something to a woman that I wouldn’t want to happen to my own mother."

When I told my wonderful boyfriend of over a year:

"You are the strongest person I know. I am here for you. I will support you in whatever you do. I love you. You are my Rockstar."

To all survivors: There are some good ones out there. I promise. Never Lose Hope.

Photographed in Charlottesville, VA on November 6th.

Click here to learn more about Project Unbreakable. (trigger warning)

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The poster reads:

"Don’t you want to know what boys like?"

Photographed in Charlottesville, VA on November 6th.

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The poster reads:

"You know we’ve both wanted this for a while now." - my (ex) best friend

Photographed in Charlottesville, VA on November 6th.

Click here to learn more about Project Unbreakable. (trigger warning)

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