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
"2/14/12 , a man on match.com asked me if I had plans for Valentine's Day. I did not. This is when one of the worst events of my life happens.
He had no idea I was getting a divorce. He knew nothing about me, other than what my profile revealed. He said we would go out. Lie. He said we could watch the movie I brought. Lie. After I didn't want to kiss him, he held a bucket of compliments over my head and started pouring.
'You're so beautiful.' Kiss.
'Your body is so sexy.' Grab.
Yes, my body is sexy. But it was not his to have. There are so many interesting things about me he could have taken the time to learn. He will never know them now. My body is the least sexy part of me.
As soon as he grabbed my head and forced me upon him, I felt my ears come in to save me. Do you know the feeling of being underwater, where you are unable to hear the things that are going on above it? This is what happens to me when I start to panic. I closed my eyes and it felt like I was sinking. He didn't know that I would be drowning for what seemed like forever.
Drowning in thoughts.
Drowning in secrets.
Drowning in medications from my doctor, sometimes hoping I could just take all of them at once and end everything.
Drowning in other men, just to get the goddamn smell of him from my nose and the taste of him from my mouth.
Drowning in showers and baths, because no matter how many I took, I still would feel dirty.
He's lucky there was someone nearby with a life preserver.
I spent a few years as a bottom dweller, and then I started swimming. At first, I think I was more lost than before, using my hands to feel around in the darkness. It only takes one peek of the light to know which way is up, though. After so much swimming, I was able to find my way to the surface. That boy will never know how sweet the air tastes after being underwater for so long."
photography // Colleen Merchant Photography