Victims of sexual abuse have been given a chance to break the silence with “Voices of Sexual Violence,” a student-run photo project.
The project, organized by Sexy Queen’s U and UEmpowered Queen’s, will take place from Sept. 23-25.
Sexy Queen’s U, created in 2012, works to raise awareness about sexual violence on campus through peer-to-peer support and events, while UEmpowered Queen’s is a Facebook page where Queen’s students can discuss rape culture anonymously.
Volunteers for the project will be photographed holding up a sign with a quote said by an abuser, or someone dismissive of sexual assault.
Organizers invited students to participate through social media.
Shelley Murphy, co-chair of Sexy Queen’s U, said this event was based off other projects featured online.
“We sort of bounced off Project Unbreakable, and Shutter the Silence,” Murphy, ArtSci ’14, said.
Project Unbreakable is hosted on a Tumblr account, and individuals from all over the world can send in a photo of themselves with a quote. Shutter the Silence is a Facebook page that features the same concept.
“[The sign] will say a quote that someone has said to them, that is either dismissive, victim-blaming or minimizing of their sexual assault,” said Murphy.
Murphy said that the event serves as a method to give a voice to those who have faced abuse.
“It will empower the people who are participating, because some have been silenced and not allowed to tell their story,” she said.
Murphy said that victims sometimes feel discouraged to speak due to fears of being blamed for their assault.
“By the act of displaying [the photos], we will also be able to educate people about this issue, and perhaps get [people] to think about what they say and how they interact with people who have been sexually assaulted,” she said.
Participants can choose to remain anonymous, or to have their face shown in the photo, she added.
“[The event] will definitely be a tool in which could help improve the conversations that are going around about sexual assault on campus.”
Yvonne Ehinlaiye, ArtSci ’16, chose to come forward as a victim of sexual assault through the project.
Ehinlaiye was assaulted while in high school on her way home from a night out.
She did not know the perpetrator.
She said she had spent a few years being silent about what had happened, until this year.
“I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want to talk about it. But I realized by not talking about it, we’re still stigmatizing and being backwards with the whole situation,” she said, adding the event will raise awareness about abuse in the Queen’s community.
“I feel like people will read [our] signs, and hopefully learn from it, and apply it to their own lives,” she said.
Ehinlaiye said her sign will feature the phrase “my clothes are not my consent,” to relay the message that what she wore that night was not an invitation for her assault. She said she chose not to quote her abuser, but to send a message to them.
Another student participating, who requested to remain anonymous, said similar projects have helped her come to terms with her assault in first year by a fellow student.
“I just thought the things that I had done … made it so I had asked for it, but seeing all those people explaining no, that’s not the case, just made me feel better,” she said.
“If somebody came up to me while I was walking on campus, I don’t know if I would have signed up.
Seeing it on Facebook gave me time to think about it.”
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