Last week I had the opportunity to briefly meet Grace Brown of Project Unbreakable. Grace is an extraordinary young woman on a mission to empower survivors of sexual abuse and assault. She takes simple, yet powerful photographs of survivors while they hold up a poster on which they have written some of the words from their attacker.
I first heard about Project Unbreakable a month or two ago when my partner heard an interview with Grace over BBC World Service podcast. He thought that the project might be helpful to me in healing from my own difficult past. I googled Project Unbreakable and quickly found the blog on Tumblr. The images were profound, disturbing at times, heartbreaking, and inspirational all at once. Before seeing the images for myself, I wondered if this was something that could truly be helpful or useful. It sounded awful to me in a way and certainly scary. I feared that the project would bring up too much of my own pain and bring myself and others to a dark place, when all I wanted was to heal. But after only a few moments on the site I knew that I had to be a part of it. As difficult as it was, it was also incredibly empowering. The images I saw did bring up feelings of anger, shame, fear, and sadness...but they also made me feel so much less alone, as well as grateful, brave, strong. Those awful words on the signs held up by survivors were once spoken with evil and in secret places, but the words on display in this way lost the power they once had as they were exposed, no longer hidden in shamed, saddened hearts. The truth is a powerful thing, even when it is ugly. The images of survivors holding up these signs bravely as a way to show that they are taking back their power is beautiful, glorious even.
When I met Grace it was at a live Project Unbreakable photo shoot held on the MIT campus in Cambridge, MA (Grace also posts photos that people have submitted on their own through email.) Some of her photos were on display and information was handed out for MIT's crisis hotline. Grace was taking photos in a discrete area overlooking the lobby where her photography was on display. We spoke few words, but she sat with me as I wrote my own poster with shaking hands. She waited, smiling at me with such sweetness as I held back tears, looking at the words I had written...the words once used against me. When I was ready, I held up my poster, choosing to cover my face as some choose to do. After she snapped the picture, I thanked her and asked her if I could give her a hug. It was a simple, quiet few moments out of my day, but the weight that was lifted from my heart and the meaning of what it took for me to stand holding that sign was overwhelmingly significant.
I am incredibly grateful for Grace Brown and her reminder that no matter who you are, woman, man or child...no matter what has been done to you...you have not been broken, you cannot be broken...because you are unbreakable.
If you would like to learn more about Project Unbreakable you can find it on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. Click here to read an interview with Brown. I'll leave you with this inspirational YouTube video about the project, but please be aware that it is rated PG-13.