United we stand - An inspiring woman takes action against sexual abuse
Guest Post by Amnesty Scotland volunteer Katie Cunningham
Last week, one of my friends made a rape joke. There was an awkward silence as the group tried to gauge each other’s reaction, and the joker took offence. We had, my friend said, usually no problem with making jokes about some very serious subjects.
My friend is not the only person who has made attempts at inappropriate humour recently. In August, a number of feminist comedians at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival made a stance against rape jokes.
But this is far from a UK issue. Last year, American comedian Daniel Tosh (who has a show on Comedy Central), was forced to apologise after making a joke about gang rape during one of his stand-up performances.
What drives us to find humour in crimes? Is it a way to try and make the horror less real? Perhaps it is easier to treat victims as inanimate objects, stacking them in our minds as statistics to make it easier to deal with the inhumanity that surrounds us. And while we are busy dehumanising the victim of a crime you can see how we might slip into using humour as a defence mechanism.
If you live around people laughing at what you’ve suffered long enough, you might even start to think that you’re overreacting, that this is as much of a joke as they’re making of it, that calling it a crime is somehow wrong…
These are just some of the reasons Project Unbreakable is so important. Started in New York City in October 2011 by photography student Grace Brown, Project Unbreakable is becoming a global movement.
Brown was inspired by a friend, who shared her own story of being sexually assaulted with the then 19-year-old student. The day after her friend’s confession Brown says she woke up with the idea for Project Unbreakable. What started as a way of empowering one woman quickly grew into something much bigger. The mission of Project Unbreakable is to increase awareness of the issues surrounding sexual assault and encourage the act of healing through art.
It’s a strikingly simple concept: women (men and transgender victims are also invited to submit images) take pictures of themselves holding placards of the words said to them by their attackers. The images are important – what better way of saying that you’re still here than showing your face and confronting the world? They are clearly alive, facing the world and no longer silent victims, they’re survivors.
Why show the words of their attackers? Because it shames them and allows the very people they attacked to do it. The people in those photographs aren’t defeated; they aren’t embarrassed by what happened to them because it wasn’t their fault.
The collection now contains more than 2,000 photographs with submissions being sent in daily. Grace Brown also finds time to shoot portraits herself in between touring North America. The Project tours college campuses in America; inspiring assault survivors and influencing students all over the country.
It’s easy to tell someone not to make rape jokes, and it’s even easier for them to decide you’re a humourless crusader. But you still need to do it. And while you do, remember that inspiring ideas like Project Unbreakable are changing the world.
If you or someone you know needs support regarding sexual assault, please contact Rape Crisis Scotland
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.