By Suzanne Samin
Arts & Entertainment Editor
When Grace Brown created Project Unbreakable in her dorm room at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, she did not know it would take her many places across the country, and soon the world.
On Sept. 25, Ohio Wesleyan became one of those many places. Brown set up shop in Benes A to photograph anyone who wanted to participate. – some coming from as far as Kentucky to be included in the project.
She then delivered a presentation that night.
Project Unbreakable is an on-going photo project depicting survivors of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse holding signs with quotes from their attackers or anecdotes from their traumatic experience.
Brown has photographed people of all different ages, ranging from as young as 15 to as old as 87 and she has been featured in multiple publications such as Time Magazine and The Guardian.
Brown began her project after realizing sexual violence was closer to her than she originally thought.
“I found that I was always surrounded by survivors of sexual assault, and then one day a friend of mine just blurted out her story to me,” she said.
“Even though I had heard these stories, something about this one really got me. I went to bed that night feeling very distraught with our world and just feeling like this was just going to happen and I was just going to hear these horrific stories and not be able to do anything about them. Then the next morning, I woke up with the idea for Project Unbreakable.”
Brown said she then approached her friend and photographed her.
Soon the project launched online and grew so much that people from all over began submitting photos of themselves and asking her to visit their cities, towns and schools.
Since creating Project Unbreakable in 2011, Brown has traveled to several states and has recently announced tour dates abroad in London and Paris.
Brown said though her initial goals for Project Unbreakable were more centered on raising awareness, she also discovered a new way of healing.
Seniors Alexandra Crump and Megan Cook, both residents of the Women’s House and members of Delta Zeta, were responsible for bringing Brown to campus as their house project.
Both Cook and Crump had previous knowledge of Brown’s project because they are followers of her blog on Tumblr.
“I’ve followed Grace Brown’s work with Project Unbreakable for a long time, and when she announced a fall tour, I knew we had to bring her to OWU,” Cook said.
“It was amazing seeing all the details come together, and when Grace arrived, it was hard to believe this was all actually happening. Grace was a wonderful, down-to-earth person, and talking with her about her project and her life inspired me to think about where my passions could meet the world’s needs.”
Cook and Crump were satisfied by the turnout of both events. Many people came to be photographed, and almost every seat was taken for Brown’s presentation.
“We decided to bring Grace to give more awareness to her project and allow members of the OWU community to participate,” Crump said.
“I think it had a profound impact on the people who were photographed, just from the few people who I spoke with it seemed to be a very important experience for them.”
In her presentation, Brown shared some of the photos she had taken in the past; including ones of people close to her.
She spoke about keeping faith in humanity, keeping positive and the importance of awareness.
She urged the audience to not be people who “sit down,” but “stand up” in the face of adversity.
Cook said she felt the project profoundly affected many of those who participated and attended the lecture.
“The response from the campus and community also surpassed all my expectations. Seeing interest from people I never would have expected really drove home the point that sexual abuse and assault affect far too many people,” Cook said.
“Sitting with Grace while she photographed students and others allowed me to see the wide variety of experiences and the different stages of response and recovery different people had.”
Cook said Brown was also satisfied with the presentation.
“Grace said that OWU was one of the best stops on her tour so far. She loved how engaged the audience was, and said this was the first speech she had given after which she felt totally satisfied,” she said.
Brown’s visit also impacted Cook on a more personal level.
“She helped me realize that the limitations I place on myself because of my age, my shyness and the like don’t have to keep me from doing something with impactthe important thing is not to be perfect from the start, but just to start something at all and see where it leads,” she said.
Editor’s note: The author of this article lives in the Women’s House but was not directly involved in this project.