April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the University of Connecticut is doing its part to spread awareness and end gender-based violence, which affects about one-third of all women worldwide. “Project Unbreakable,” an art exhibit that promotes awareness of such crimes in local communities, came to Homer Babbidge Library earlier this week.
The UConn Violence Against Women Prevention Center, part of the Women’s Center, helped run this year’s Project Unbreakable exhibit. Students were encouraged to read the stories of survivors and their experiences and then pledge to help end gender-based violence.
Project Unbreakable is a national photography project that encourages healing through art and awareness. Survivors of sexual assault, abuse and gender-based violence tell their stories and help inform the public about the horror that happens behind closed doors and even out in the open. The photographs were of students holding up a sign with a quote from their abuser, or the reactions of the people they told about their ordeal.
“The original Project Unbreakable was conceived in 2011 by then 19-year-old Grace Brown, a college student at NYU, who wanted to give voice to survivors of sexual assault, dating/domestic violence and child sexual abuse on college campuses,” said event organizer Lauren Donais, who works as the Violence Against Women Prevention Program Coordinator.
“Since 2013, every April, the Violence Against Women Prevention Program (VAWPP) has organized UConn Project Unbreakable to bring awareness to gender-based violence happening right here in our own community,” Donais said.
UConn’s version of Project Unbreakable is based on the larger organization, with UConn students speaking out through poetry, art and photography. The main display was adorned with decorated T-shirts created by students that helped organize the event, with encouragements written on the front.
Student ambassador Asahi Hoque helped table the exhibit, passing out flyers and informing passersby about the project.
Hoque aims for the display to encourage others to take action.
“We hope it inspires people to do something about it, and to challenge social norms,” Hoque said.
Students were also encouraged to write pledges that disrupt and reject societal excuses and norms that allow gender-based violence to occur, without forcing the perpetrators to be held accountable. These pledges will be displayed with the exhibit, and on the Women’s Center and the VAWPP’s Take Back the Night event on April 13 in the Student Union Ballroom.
All in all, gender violence and relationship abuse is something that affects everyone, Hoque said.
“You don't really think about gender-based violence happening to you.” Hoque said. “It could happen to anyone, regardless of gender or sexuality.”
Project Unbreakable will be on display for the week of April 4 to April 8 in the Homer Babbidge Library ground floor. Students are encouraged to stop by and learn the stories of survivors and their healing journeys. For more information, or to share your story, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marlese Lessing is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.