Still at The School of Visual Arts in New York, Grace Brown is tackling a rarely discussed subject matter through her art – sexual abuse. Launching her project in October 2011, she has since crowdsourced countless images that allow victims to write a message to their attacker. Whilst cathartic, it brings awareness to the number of unreported cases that hold shocking statistics – ‘1/3 women and 1/5 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime; 15/16 rapists will never spend a day in jail, every 2 mins someone in the US is sexually assaulted.’ Through word of mouth and online activity she has since connected with a variety of individuals across the US from a range of demographics, all eager to participate in Project Unbreakable. The content is ready to be photographed – now all Grace needs is the funds:
How has the experience so far of interacting with your subjects contributed to your development as a young photographer?
It has given me more life experience in a lot of ways. I’m not the most social person sometimes, I can be rather shy, so it has been really wonderful to connect with people in a way that I feel comfortable.
How did you discover crowdfunding and why has it become a vital part in making your project happen?
I’ve seen a lot of the musicians I know do crowdfunding for their new records and it really works well. I realized when my project was a few months old that if I wanted to continue reaching people, I needed to find a way to fund it. Crowdfunding was the easiest, smartest way.
Where will you be traveling to and how have you conducted outreach to the individuals that you plan to photograph?
I’m heading to DC in a couple of weeks, and planning a few more trips around the country. If I raise enough money, I would really love to get to Europe. As for outreach, I primarily just rely on word of mouth. That’s mostly the reason why this project has been growing so quickly.
Your Tumblr is a mix of submitted images and those that you have taken, how has the collection of this content contributed to help victims of sexual abuse through some of your experiences?
I first created this project to mainly show how common sexual abuse was – much more common than we realize – but I soon found out that Unbreakable was much more powerful than that. It’s a way for people to take back the words that were said to them. Survivors often don’t realize how powerful those words can be, sitting in one’s stomach like a stone. Finally, it is their time to hold the power again. I’ve had emails from people telling me that they feel free for the first time. It’s quite amazing that an idea I woke up with one morning has turned into this.
How has social media and online promotions played a role in driving awareness of your fundraising efforts?
Social media is the primary reason why I am even able to raise money at all. My friend Nino Gallego created a promotional video for the project/fundraiser, and it went nearly viral. People were sharing it, and then their friends would share it, and so on. I feel like my project in general wouldn’t be anywhere close to where it is now if not for social media.
Project Unbreakable is currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo