They say a picture is worth a thousand words and I wholeheartedly agree. Photography has the power to convey an emotion or experience in ways that words simply can’t no matter how many are written or said.
Part of healing trauma is finding a way to process the painful emotions in a way that breaks their hold on the mind and body. One of the best ways to do this is by finding creative, non-linear ways of expressing the painful and frightening emotions that are quite often too painful (or buried too deeply) to access in a more direct way. Music, poetry, painting, dance, photography, etc..these are all very common creative expressions that can prove to have powerful healing effects for victims. For me, well, I’ve always been partial to photography…
Last winter, my therapist noticed I was stuck in my ability to move past the sexual assault I experience a couple years prior. While I was beginning to understand what really happened to me, I just couldn’t shake the pain and despair of such seemingly senseless violence. The injustice of everything I experienced, including being silenced and shamed by police and “friends”, brought confusion and pain that lingered in my body and haunted my every thought.
In a stroke of brilliance, my therapist suggested that I connect with Liz Gilani, a photographer, to create a photo story to externalize my emotional experience with the assault. The purpose being to not only process and resolve the trauma for myself but to also bring purpose to the pain.
I participated in this project in order to heal, but I’ve decided to share it for many more reasons than that. Sexual assault is an absolute epidemic that is overwhelmingly ignored, denied, or at best met with indifference by our society. One in four women are victims of sexual assault and those numbers are even low due to a severe lack of reporting. Women fear reporting for many reasons including fear of retribution, being re-traumatized, shame and blame from others, self-blame, lack of support, and the most heart-breaking…because they see stories like mine where the police simply don’t care and they know their own fruitless efforts will only cause them more pain and suffering. Of all issues, sexual assault is one of the most prevalent, relevant, and yet oddly one of the most ignored by society.
This photo story is my way of bringing justice to a situation that never found justice. I want the friends and family of my fellow survivors to truly understand the emotional and spiritual damage that is done through sexual violence so they can show more compassion and support to those who have been victimized. I want our culture to understand that this issue is not to be taken lightly and that instead of blaming and shaming victims, we need to start holding perpetrators accountable for their actions.
More than anything, I want victims to know they aren’t alone. I want them to know that God did not want their experience to happen anymore than they did, and that He is on their side. If you or anyone you know is a victim of sexual assault and you feel like they would benefit from this story, please feel free to share.
** Before clicking, please be aware that some of these photos are very graphic and could be a potential trigger for some victims of sexual assault. **