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22 December 2014


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I think it's incredibly easy to dismiss the power of a simple portrait. Just as it is easy to dismiss the reality that rape happens, and happens more often than we like to think, or even know.

But couple these same simple portraits with text and you have something powerful. In another context - an arrest situation, they become mug-shots, direct-to-camera images with some text, and have a specific meaning, exert an influence way beyond the simple sum of their parts. In many respects they will forever define those depicted in that one particular way.

'I stand with survivors...' has this power too. These images not only let those who detest this situation be defined as such, and publicly proclaim their allegiance, but they have one other key purpose, and one that could be crucial. They draw up a contract between 'community' and 'survivors', one that confers the knowledge that there are people they may turn to, men and women whose moral compass may lead them to a safe haven.

My own dad was raped in his youth, something he never revealed until in his retirement years, and even then only as a consequence of mental illness. I presume he had nobody to turn to, or maybe even more distressing to imagine, that nobody believed him. Rape itself is traumatic and damaging, but the legacy of it can shape a life, destructive in so many ways. I wrote about it here in a specific context of institutional sexual abuse that currently continues to rock the UK: http://www.duckrabbit.info/2012/11/just-three-words/

Personally I think, above all else, for those who have been assaulted it is simply being believed that has to be the first step. 'I stand with survivors….' does that, recognises that rape and sexual assault happens and that those who experience it and its aftermath, are survivors, and they are not alone.

I just wish my own father had not felt the loneliness he did for his whole adult life. It affected him, and it affects me too every time I look at a photograph of him.

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