The Annual 2012

School of Visual Arts
Newsmakers

Unbroken

Grace Brown

Dubbed one of “30 Must-See Tumblr Blogs” by Time magazine, Project Unbreakable is the brainchild of current BFA Photography student Grace Brown. The site, which has garnered international attention since its October 2011 launch, features photographs of individuals who have been sexually assaulted; they all hold placards inscribed with words their attackers had uttered during the incident. It’s a template that has proved to have powerful healing abilities.

Writer, producer and blogger Maura Judkis wrote about Brown’s project in the Washington Post:

Grace Brown photographs women holding up white posters scrawled with horrifying words, all terrible in their own way. But perhaps most chilling of all is an image featuring the three words that people are often thrilled to hear: ‘I love you.’ The woman holding the sign, calmly, defiantly, is a survivor of a sexual assault. Brown asked that she write the words her attacker said during the act. In a series of powerful images, the words range from misogynistic insults to terrifying declarations of love.

Brown, a 19-year-old student at the School of Visual Arts, created ‘Project Unbreakable’ to give survivors a way to feel empowered about the words used against them. Brown said that after 25 photographs of survivors, she is no longer shocked by some of the things that abusers say to their victims, even though the words don’t become any easier to read. ‘It’s too real for it to ever be easy,’ she wrote in an e-mail. ‘The attacker uses a lot of guilt and manipulation to either make the survivor think that it’s their fault or that they wanted it. It’s also a common thread to see threats against the survivors if they don’t keep quiet.’

Brown was subsequently featured on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry show and interviewed for the program’s blog by Jamil Smith:

Can you tell me specifically what prompted you to start Project Unbreakable?
After hearing so many stories in the past couple years, I was out with a friend in October and she decided to tell me that she had once been abused. And it was the last straw for me. I woke up the next morning and I had the idea for the project in my head.

Why did you call it ‘Project Unbreakable’?
I originally wanted to do something regarding strength. I was talking to my sister back and forth, and she came up with ‘unshakeable.’ I went into the thesaurus, ‘unbreakable’ came up, and I just decided to go with ‘unbreakable.’

So you create the Tumblr, and you begin. Is what is has become now what you had in mind from the beginning?
I didn’t plan on accepting anyone wanting to submit; I planned on it just being a photography project. But then, a couple weeks in, people were asking to submit their own images because they live too far away. I said, ‘Absolutely.’

Rape Survivors Use Attackers’ Words Against Them in Photo Series

Meet Grace Brown, Unbreakable Photographer

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