Project Unbreakable was created on the profound belief that with awareness, kindness and validation of the stories of survivors of sexual violence, this violence can be stopped. Started by 20-year-old Grace Brown, Project Unbreakable photographs survivors of sexual violence holding posters with a handwritten quote from their attacker. Standing with these words in their hands, these survivors are given the space to reclaim the words that were once used to disempower them. In an interview with HelloGiggles, Grace shared that this project is, “a way to take a stand and have a voice, because our society tends to silence and shame survivors. They are finally able to stand there and say, ‘Yeah that happened to me, and I’m ok. I’m working through it.’”
In the United States, an average of 207,754 Americans over the age of 12 experience rape and sexual assault each year. Looking at these staggering statistics, it can be easy for outsiders to feel disconnected with the numbers, that it doesn’t involve them somehow. Yet, studies have shown that 1 out of every 6 American women and 1 in 33 American men will experience nonconsensual sexual contact in their lifetime.
Created in 2011, Project Unbreakable has since grown to be named one of Time’s magazine Top 30 Tumblr Blogs to follow and is collecting hundreds of submissions each day from all around the world. Blending her passion for photography and activism against sexual violence, Project Unbreakable was dreamt up the night after a close friend disclosed to Grace the story of her assault, a friend who would later become the first photograph to begin the project.
Through the lens of her camera, Grace has been able to validate these survivors’ stories and bring attention to the prevalence of sexual violence in our communities. Grace has personally photographed over 260 survivors around the country and been contacted by over 1000 on her Tumblr. “I just take their photo, and at the end they thank me, but it’s not your normal ‘oh, thanks.’ It’s more drawn out, it lasts about fifteen to thirty seconds and I can really tell in their eyes that they actually are grateful. It’s a very fulfilling experience,” said Grace to HelloGiggles.
With survivor’s experiences only being complicated by guilt, shame, or personal relationships with an abuser, many survivors never have the chance to share their stories with others, and instead, internalize the situation as being their fault. Without discrimination to age, gender, sexual orientation or racial background, Grace’s photographers have helped to dispel the stereotypes around who can be assaulted and who can’t.
In the coming months, Project Unbreakable will be traveling to Europe to spend time in London and Paris photographing survivors interested in sharing their stories. Developing into an international movement, Grace has created a community of survivors that uniquely highlights each of their individual stories. Through her work with Project Unbreakable, Grace continues to make a change through stopping sexual violence one photograph and story at a time.