Project Unbreakable: Documenting Hurt and Healing

by Cynthia Tintorri; photos by Brett Cretella
November 14, 2012

What started as an art project for now-20 year old Grace Brown has become a vehicle for catharsisGrace Brown and healing for hundreds of sexual abuse survivors. On November 13, Brown brought her Project Unbreakable show to Northampton Community College, talking about her photos and the stories of the people in them.

Brown created Project Unbreakable in October 2011, working with both male and female survivors of sexual abuse who volunteered to be photographed holding a poster with a quote from their attacker. Originally, she created the project to show the number of victims and how common sexual assault is, but it soon became apparent to her the healing power behind victims taking the words back.

"One woman, a CEO and sexual abuse survivor, told me, 'I'm almost 40, and I've been in therapy for 28 years. You changed my life with 15 minutes of your time.' It was then I realized that this was no longer an art project. I was a witness to a piece of someone's healing journey," Brown said.

Over 200 survivors have been photographed, and Brown has received over a thousand submissions.

"I know it's difficult to see these images," Brown told the large audience, "but Project Unbreakable is not sad. Deeper down, it is a symbol of hope."

Brown wants Project Unbreakable to signrepresent "hope that one day we can create a world where sexual assault victims are not silenced, or blamed."

Brown's work has been featured by sources such as TIME magazine, The Guardian, Jezebel, The Washington Post, and more. She was recently honored by actress Mariska Hargitay's (Law and Order: SVU) organization Joyful Heart Foundation, as well as named one of Jezebel's 25 Up-and-Coming Women at their five-year anniversary party. She is currently completing an 18-stop tour.

If you are interested in participating by submitting your own image, send the photo and an email to The pictures will appear at If you are interested in being photographed, send Brown an email at with the subject line "Photograph Me."

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