Reclaim Project: Sheila

The Reclaim Project is an initiative to help sexual violence survivors to feel comfortable in their skin again. We're partnering up with photographers to provide these photo sessions in the hopes that we can help to portray female bodies as belonging to actual human beings, instead of objects. We'll be sharing lots of these sessions over time, each one paired with a statement from the survivor about how their experiences have shaped their body image, mental health, and view of their sexuality. Click here if you're a survivor interested in setting up a session, or here if you're a photographer who'd like to participate!

Content warning: rape, sexual assault


Mask Dancer

(Masks of Trauma)


i.                 Tough Girl Mask- Knows exactly where she’s going; what she’s doing and why. Resting bitch face; unapproachable because if you were to approach she’d have to drop this mask and fumble to put on a new one. Overconfident and arrogant. On the inside is scared and confused.

ii.               Child Mask- Seven year old replica, whiny and needy and small. Needs help navigating even the smallest tasks but scared to ask for things. Remains irritable and scowling. Punishes self and throws tantrums mostly related to food.

iii.              Good Girl Mask- Will do anything to make you happy. Reserved for authority figures (teachers, bosses, parents.) Cares about what people think of her, shows she’s paying attention and working hard, wants acceptance, crushes her if she doesn’t get it.

iv.              Rebellious Mask- Resists authority she doesn’t respect. Thinks she knows best and doesn’t need to follow rules, embarrassed if overruled, angry at incompetent people having power.


v.                Sexual Mask- This mask was thrown in the trash a long time ago; a mind/body barrier was constructed that would make Trump jealous. This mask is the most unsafe of all and it leads to feelings of disgust when asked to don it. Cuddles are high risk situations. (More like an anti-mask.)

vi.              Codependent Mask- See six years ago, see never wanting to be again. Obsessive, addictive, changes self for someone else. Gives way more than she receives. Hates self; low self-esteem; jealousy. Focuses on how to impress/get the attention, positive or negative. If not noticed, she is no one. Calculated, easily hurt.

vii.            Victim Mask- Trying to put some much needed dust on this one. Poor me, look at all I’ve been through. Makes excuses that prevent her from getting better. People don’t have to deal with as much as she does but she’s not doing enough. Justification for eating poorly and not exercising. Wants people to cut her some slack; wants self to cut her some slack but never feels she’s good enough and chastises self for that.

viii.           Logical/Intelligent Mask- Smarty pants girl. Hides behind this during power struggles. Others see this mask on before she does. Has an opinion about everything.


ix.              Depressive Mask- Opposite of logical self. Distorts the world with charcoal colored glasses. Hates self and life situation, wishes to be anywhere else; someone else. Feels she is broken beyond repair; victim; hopeless. Not good enough, not ever good enough.

x.                Lazy Mask- Lay in bed watching reality shows, eating sweets and scrolling Instagram. Where she retreats when her mental energy is too drained to be productive; almost daily. Body aches; exhaustion.


xi.              Passive Mask- Easily traceable to childhood; incapable of standing up for self. Scapegoat for why she doesn’t call her grandmother or set stronger boundaries. Settles for less because she’s too scared to ask for fairness. Scared of confrontation and will run away; avoid at all costs. Doesn’t want to bother others.

xii.            Assertive Mask- Newest; smallest; most fragile mask. Still clumsy but necessary and growing stronger.

xiii.           Introvert Mask- Soaks up solitude, needs this to feel recharged. Exhaustion apparent without it.

xiv.           Extrovert Mask- Gossiper, wants attention.


xv.             Narcotic Mask- Trying to control everyone and everything like she knows best and that knowledge creates this insane energy and tendencies that hurt, i.e. biting mouth. A fraction of this mask is worn most days, watered down version that is embraced. 

xvi.           Post Conventional/Chaotic Good Mask- Doesn’t put too much stock in laws/rules; uses morality to make decisions. Same mask the teen girl wore to justify stealing from Kmart but more ethical now. Helping others and doing what makes the most sense for the common good> laws/rules.

xvii.         Therapist/Professional Mask- Starting to feel more comfortable but still feels like fake smiling, aligning, supportive mother figure that pretends to care even when maybe she shouldn’t, when maybe she should be correcting bad behavior. Very put together even when falling apart, even despite trauma history. Always strong and knows what she’s doing. Teacher; leader.


xviii.        Caretaker Mask- “I’m fine, everything is fine. How are you, tell me about your problems.” This mask is exhausting the older she gets and it’s mostly reserved only for her mother. Different from therapist mask; less healthy.

xix.           Resentful Mask- Picks someone to hate/ be mad at as a defense to hide her true emotions/weaknesses.

xx.             Cool Girl Mask- Tries too hard for social media, new friends. Uses sarcasm too much or to get positive attention, makes jokes at the expense of herself and others, pretends she doesn’t care.


xxi.           Outraged/Political Mask- Passionate about liberal and feminist issues but doesn’t have the energy to fully inform self or the confidence to speak out. Acts out of emotions rather than facts. Wants the best for people but only if they aren’t bigots. Can be hypocritical; judgmental of people who think differently. Speaks up but only when there is no fear of being confronted.

xxii.         Dreaming Mask- Always running; always fighting. Tries to fight back but is too weak. Imaginative; creative; weird. The only time I allow myself to feel. 





a.      Can wear multiple masks at one time. Some of these are positive; authentic and meant to be kept on.

b.      Most masks are used as protection and developed from suffering from trauma.

c.      Goes beyond just having different sides to yourself; more tangible and intense.

d.      In unknown situations or between switching masks there is a scramble to find a mask. Therefore anxiety; hypervigilance is raised in situations where there is no clear indication of what mask should be worn. Without any mask on is there even a self?