“The only way you would ever leave me is in a body bag.” This is one of the many quotes hanging around the Dolan Center for Science and Technology from the “Project Unbreakable” photo exhibit going on through Friday, Oct. 9.
“Project Unbreakable” is a worldwide photography project, which allows victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse to have a voice about the crime they experienced. The photos depict survivors holding a piece of paper with quotes from their attackers written on them.
“It is the story of survivors in their own words and I think that is the thing that is critical for us… We often have a lot of people who speak on behalf of survivors, but it is very important to hear from survivors themselves,” said Sheri Young, the chair of psychological science department.
The exhibit offers victims of this crime a platform to speak up about the horrors they experienced that are usually silenced. The Association of American Universities released the results of a survey about sexual assault on Sept. 21, taken among 150,000 students in 27 schools. The report shows that almost 25 percent of female undergraduate students have been a victim to nonconsensual sex or physical contact at their university.
Part of what makes this exhibit important, according to Stephanie Cerula, the Program Coordinator for the Violence Prevention and Action Center, is that interpersonal violence is such an issue that isn’t talked about often enough. A frequent occurrence with cases of interpersonal violence survivors go through so much that they don’t get the chance to speak out. She thinks this project really brings awareness and highlights different people’s stories and experiences.
Ruta Marino, the Administrative Assistant of the Psychological Science Department, mentions that most of the people don’t realize how pervasive sexual assault is, or how many children are involved, how many excuses are made up to excuse the perpetrator or try to rationalize it. According to Marino, actually seeing the pictures with the words of the assailant makes it powerful and shocking at the same time, especially realizing how many young women are made victims while they are in college. Marino adds, “No means no.”
Young also emphasized that she doesn’t want individuals to feel as if they need to be silent. She believes that silence is shaming the person that survived the abuse, instead of the perpetrator. She stated that only the survivors in this project have a voice, but all survivors have the ability to voice their experience.
Young hopes students will feel empowered by the exhibit and see a change in the environment due to the raised awareness. She states that it is important to keep having conversations about issues of abuse.
October is domestic violence month. “Project Unbreakable” is part of the Purple Light Events that are happening on campus this month to commemorate the cause.
Editor’s Note: The John Carroll University violence prevention and action center is located inside the counseling center on 2567 South Belvoir Blvd. If you or someone you know has experienced any sort of interpersonal violence call 216-397-2175.