Sexual violence is often taboo. In private, it bears a shroud of whispered rumors and family secrets. In public, the discourse circles round in endless statistics and worn stereotypes. But for those of us who have experienced it, the reality is far more painful, complex and all-consuming.
Sexual violence encompasses the child violated by a beloved grandparent; the teenager abused by a boyfriend; the faithful altar boy assaulted by his priest. It includes the wife whose husband won’t take no for an answer; the disabled person victimized by a caregiver; the young woman raped by a coworker.
These are not hypothetical situations; they are real stories from people in this project.
I reached out online and in person, inviting participants to choose objects to represent themselves and their stories. It is a concrete act of reclaiming agency and bearing witness to this important truth: that sexual violence may affect us deeply, but it can never define us.
The objects people choose are creative, evocative, and diverse. They include joy-filled items like brilliant gemstones, honeymoon sand, and tiny works of art; alongside deeply painful memories like clothing worn during an assault, and ashes from photographs of a rapist.
The objects are suspended in tiny round bottles and bathed in light, suggesting wholeness and transparency. And yet they are fragile; after all, these are not easy stories to tell, or to hear.
They are not easy, but telling and hearing opens up the possibility of healing. This is as true for individuals as it is for whole communities. I invite you to bear witness to these stories and symbols of people affected by sexual violence, and to share in our hope for healing and for a safer world to come.