Project Unbreakable: Using Words Of Abuse For Awareness And Healing

Grace Brown, a student at New York’s School of Visual Arts, was so moved by the horrific descriptions of sexual abuse from a victim that last October she started photography project called Project Unbreakable. Grace's idea is using photography to help heal sexual abuse survivors by asking them to write a quote from their attacker on a poster and photographing them holding the poster. The victims can submit the images themselves or can ask the project to photograph them. The photographs are then posted on a blog in Tumlbr which are getting reblogged by many – thus spreading awareness.

project unbreakable

Grace writes for a fund-raiser campaign:

I am nineteen years old, and my career could end tomorrow, but I'd still feel fulfilled. I want to take this project a step further. I want to be able to travel to different areas in America to photograph, to speak, to show my work – to show people that they are not alone. And maybe one day, I can turn this project into an organization, providing professional help for survivors, something that I am unfortunately not qualified to give.

We all have the ability to change the world – it's just a matter of deciding how we want to. If you can donate, I would appreciate it. If you can't, please just share this page if you are willing. And if you are a survivor of sexual abuse, I want you to remember that you are unbreakable.

Anonymous user submission. Image courtesy Project Unbreakable

Blogger and public speaker Amy Phillips writes in the Washington Times:

The photographs are reminders that the words and the deeds are never forgotten. Each placard held represents a small act of justice. Held up to the light, each quote stuns with its audacity, with its evil, with its sheer creepiness. As you read them, you judge it for what it is. Victimization in words.

Anonymous user submission in Project Unbreakable

On March 3, 2012 Grace will be at Union Station in Washington, D.C., from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to take photos of people who were sexually abused.

Anyone interested in participating by either being photographed or sending in an image, may email Grace at projectunbreakable@gmail.com and put the subject line “Photograph Me” or “Submission,” depending on the circumstance.

7 comments

  • It is great project.

  • Ann

    While Ms. Brown’s intentions are undoubtedly very good, I would recommend that she consult with a mental health professional about this project. From what we know about trauma, pulling the words of the abuser out like this might have the opposite of a healing effect, and could in fact be re-traumatizing.

    • Actually, I can’t disagree more. I’m in Grace’s project. It wasn’t until I had the courage to talk that the healing began. Hiding it only hides the event but the problems that the abuse causes show up in pretty much all areas of life. I couldn’t recover from my own shame until I could get the words out and realize that the power they had over me began to diminish when allowing them to surface. This doesn’t happen over night. It takes time, love and work but healing comes from addressing it. Hiding it is like being that little child who plays peep-a-boo covering their own eyes believing you don’t see them. I’ve talked through issues with lots of victims who are so grateful on the side of recovery.

  • Gayane

    I really wish good luck to the author of this project, she is really a brave girl, but I think maybe it would be better if she uses some positive phrase , for those people to show, after their stories, because they need at least to feel that they are not alone and together they are power and can overcome the tragedy happpend to them

  • Pingback: Women and Media |

    [...] Project Unbreakable has been running since October last year, when visual arts student  Grace Brown asked some friends who’d experienced sexual abuse to pose for photographs holding a written record of something their attackers had said. At the time, it was a small project, but she soon got emails from other survivors asking if they could also be involved, and since then, more and more women are sending in their own images. It is apparently gaining popularity as a way for abuse survivors to “take the power back of the words that were once used against them”. It’s a powerful project, and what struck me most is how so many of the quotes could also have been said by someone truly caring, instead of someone who clearly did not care. (link via Rezwan) [...]


  • Gloria Laker

    Dear Grace,
    My name is Gloria Laker and a journalists from the war ravaged northern Uganda. Your work is an excellent idea. How i wish you could come and photograph the so many women and girls sexually abused by rebels of the Lords Resistance Army [LRA] in Northern Uganda whose sories are not fully heard,
    Congs on this brilliant idea.
    Gloria

  • Millicent Adede

    It is great to hear from people who have suffered in the hands of rapists. They give hope to victims that there is life even after such a terrible thing happens to you. i work with a child centred organization that has child protection as one of its programmes and the stories we come across are terrible and to make matters worse involve children. Surely our voices must be heard!!!

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