I wanted to write to tell you how grateful I am for the opportunity to
participate in Project Unbreakable and talk with you and Yvonne and
everyone on your crew who’s helping you with this project.
That day, I focused on “What can I give back about my experiences
being raped, to this community of men and women, and this outpouring
of reality that has helped me come to terms with being a survivor of
sexual abuse. A survivor. Not a victim.”
There are a lot of things I didn’t say, that I couldn’t say at the
time about what my abuser would tell me that was all designed and
aimed at normalizing the sexual abuse. Like I’d asked for it. Like he
was doing me a favor. Always framed in a way that, even though I was
begging for the abuse to stop, I felt ashamed and responsible, because
at 14, I could never find a form of “No,” that he would listen to.
“I like the idea that when you’re old enough to date, you’ll be ahead
of all the boys.”
“I am a sex god.”
“You’re a natural at this.”
“I wish you visited more often… I don’t recognize your clothes anymore.”
Instead of focusing on my abuser, I focused on how my family responded
to the abuse, because so much of the fear of the stigma of sexual
abuse is related to what others will say when you tell them you were
raped. And that fear and shame is what keeps survivors from
disclosing. The amazing thing about Project Unbreakable is you and
everyone you photograph are creating a community where it’s safe to
disclose — not just to safe friends, but disclose to our culture at
large. Because you are giving survivors a forum to speak and creating
this compendium of the uncomfortable reality of abuse, you are also
giving everyone else a glimpse into the fundamental nature of sexual
abuse and the the overwhelming prevalence of rape in our culture. The
national dialog about rape and what the average person knows about the
kind of people rape, or what rape even looks like, is abysmal — and I
think it’s abysmal because of honest ignorance. No one enjoys
difficult topics, so they turn a blind eye. But one photograph at a
time, one survivor at a time, Project Unbreakable is changing that.
The “Old Way” built this wall of silence and stigma around sexual
abuse, so every survivor suffered alone. Project Unbreakable is
changing that. You’re bringing us together.
When I first saw Project Unbreakable, my stomach dropped and I
thought, “Oh God, I’m not the only one.” And, months later, when I
picked up a marker to expose what I’d been through, it hurt so much
that I thought I might die. But I survived. And since then, for the
first time in 16 years, I feel entirely like myself. Nothing anyone
says to me, ever again, can ever take that away.
Thank you so much.
Please take care.
Photographed in Boston, MA on April 25th.
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