Project Unbreakable was created in October of 2011 by Grace Brown. Grace works with survivors of sexual assault, photographing them holding a poster with a quote from their attacker. Grace has photographed about three hundred people and has received over a thousand submissions. TIME magazine has also named it one of the top 30 Tumblr blogs to follow.

Last september

We sit alone As my tears continued to flow No one around to hear my cries for help You tell me you can make it all ok Your towering stature starts closing in Your leaning down Lips closing in I try to push you away But you hold me closer I ask you to stop and add a pleading look Your lips near again but my face dodges away I say to let me go I want to just go home i plead My lips dart away I push you away and run for the door But you move swifter and push me to the bed Your hovering above me I try to push you away Your large hands grab my wrists And their forced and healed above my head My body pinned to a mattress and im left with no escape Your lips harshly meet mine I continue my struggle to break free Tears fall down my cheeks Words quickly leave my lips as i beg I tell you no I continue to yell to stop My words are met with a slap My struggles are met with a tightened squeeze At last a sound of keys raddled a near by door Someone at last has come home You get off of me revealing bruises on my arms And scars on my brain I rush from your room and leave for my home And all i ever hear is justification “You shouldnt have gone in his room” He taunts “u should have said no more forcefully” Im told “i could have prevented it” And im left alone in a heap of hate and in a world of fear.

It could have been worse.

Inspired to share my own story by Project Unbreakable. It’s a little meandering, but I’ve said so little about this time in my life that I feel I’m allowed to meander. I should note, I guess, that I’ve made peace (mostly) with what happened, so it doesn’t require any action on the part of the reader. Ultimately this is something in my life that is over, and I simply wanted to share my experience because I don’t want to feel ashamed of it. It happened, and I’m moving on from it now.

My mom’s second marriage was ending. It effected me, but probably not as much as I had thought it would based on how I cried when they sat me down. “We’re better as friends,” they told me. That wasn’t true and we all knew it—C routinely blamed me for things, accused me of trying to split them up. He would get into my face and yell at me, inches from my face, yelling at me like he hated me. Oddly, he isn’t the antagonist here. This, looking back on my life, was only a few years after I had stopped communicating with my father, another gem of a man. He thought the best way to maintain a connection was to tell your daughter “Have a nice life” and hang up on her when she said she was invited to a birthday party and wouldn’t be seeing him that weekend. This was the same man who was a pathological liar, addicted to pain pills (later morphine—this would kill him) and who routinely played mind games with his six year old daughter. Someone whose age is a single digit shouldn’t have to make the choice to stop communicating with a person who helped create her. When he died, I’ll never forget what my godmother said: “The best thing he ever did in his life was create you.” This story isn’t about him, either. It’s interesting to note, however, the dating patterns of my mother. As her second marriage was ending, with C moved out, she began to see a man named R. He was a coworker of hers, and he suddenly came around the house more and more. R was friendly enough, I remembered him as the guy who gave me candy when I’d visit the office. I was 10 and didn’t think about the fact that my mom was on the phone with people, that she was going anywhere or seeing anyone. What I remember from this time, actually, was the fact that a woman who was normally quite cruel and strict was suddenly someone I was getting along fine with. I will never forget that fact, that when it was just the two of us for those months, we didn’t fight a single time. C took me to a theme park as his birthday gift to me, since he was still trying to be in my life somewhat. It rained and the theme park was empty. We spent the whole day there, and I went on the biggest roller coaster the park had three or four times. I remember it being quite dark when C finally walked me to my apartment door, and I remember thinking it was weird that R was there. I remember him sitting in the living room, and being told later that he had moved in that day. I can’t imagine how awkward it must have been for C, even though I really have no sympathy for him; coming into a place that you used to pay for and there’s another person in your place and with your former partner. My mother found out that she was pregnant that summer, around when the divorce went through, and my sister was born the following February. She and R got married that January, and my sister tells the story quite proudly: she was in my mom’s belly, they went to the courthouse then to IHOP, and R went back to the office and my mom went to buy a shower curtain. The picture of marital bliss. When the two of them had started dating, I recall each of my family members pulling me aside separately and warning me. “If R ever does anything to you, I want you to tell someone.” I didn’t understand what they meant, but I said okay. I didn’t understand but I think they knew there was a reason to worry. Actually, R and I got along rather well, and because I had a lot of issues with my mom, he was someone I could go to often. He would defend me. I would sit on the stairs while they fought and he took my side, and finally I had someone in my corner who would stand up to my mom. The rest of my family, as supportive as they were and as much as they tried to offer me a haven away from my immediate home, didn’t do much in the ways of telling my mother when she crossed a line. She’s always been a touch imbalanced, and often if she was mad she’d find a reason to yell at me. I was hit only twice that I can remember—twice too many, for sure—but it could have been worse. The idea of having someone who would be my voice when I didn’t have one was amazing, and R and I thought similarly. My mom laughed that we were two peas in a pod. My mom would also get into screaming matches with R that would make me hide in my room, and later would compel me to yell at them both to think of my infant sister. That never stopped them. I was eventually dragged into some of the fights, sometimes by my mother, other times by R. Not always in defense.  My brother was born the October after my sister turned one. I was 13. I can’t say for sure when it started, but I think it started with Sundays, especially ones after I turned 14. They were always the day that my mom made us a big breakfast, and she and R were always in the best mood. As an adult, I don’t even want to think about why that might be, but as a fairly innocent 14 year old girl, I didn’t question the escape from the arguments. Sundays had routine about them—I would wake to the smell of bacon and coffee, to pancakes or french toast (and sometimes being chastised for sleeping as late as I often did.) After breakfast my mom would go upstairs to shower, and we’d get ready to go on the family outing to a mall, to an LA hotspot, to Venice Beach. That makes my home life sound more structured picket fence than it was, but it was a pattern that was rarely broken except my sporting events of interest. Sundays had an expected series of events, anyhow, and I don’t know how or why but they evolved a bit. R was always affectionate with me, which I was unfamiliar with because no one but my grandparents were affectionate with me. He held my hand in the car, would hug me after stopping to talk to me while I did homework. He was also rather affectionate with my mother, especially so on Sunday mornings. R would hug her and kiss her, and when she’d retreat upstairs to shower, he’d be affectionate with me.  It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school that I started to feel uncomfortable, but there was a change. He, at first, would just hold my hand at inconvenient times for me. I’d be going upstairs and he’d catch my hand, and even when I’d ask him to let go or pull away he wouldn’t release me. Not until I’d dealt with it for a few minutes, anyhow. It’s uncanny how the slight stretch of skin at my wrist, when pulled too much, reminds me of that small panic in my stomach when he wouldn’t let go. I’d go hide in my room after that, usually, and the panic would stay there. He’d hold my hand in the car, too, and I was uncomfortable for a reason I couldn’t pinpoint. I started to dread being alone with him. I didn’t want my mom to go shower on Sunday mornings because it meant I would have to fight that  battle, and I didn’t know how much I’d lose until I was back upstairs again, safe. One day, in my siblings’ room, he hugged me. As I turned my head in the hug, I felt his lips on my neck. I recall thinking it was deliberate, and eventually convincing myself that I must have turned my head as he tried to kiss my cheek or something. The sinking, pit of my stomach feeling said otherwise, but I tried to tell myself it was okay.  I honestly couldn’t tell you how much later this was, but I was downstairs making my own breakfast at the stove when R came up behind me and put his arms around me. This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened, and it made me uncomfortable those times, too, but I never thought to say anything. This time, however, he dipped his head low and kissed me on my neck. There was no questioning how deliberate that action was, though I’ll concede it was likely an impulsive action. Writing this now is bringing back the revulsion I felt then, the ill feeling that accompanied that action. I pulled away—I don’t know how—and the rest of the day was a bit of a blur. That action was as clear as day, however, and I don’t think I’ll ever have it burned out of my memory. I didn’t actually connect the dots about what was happening until later. I felt ill around him, hated being around him, hated that my mother was married to this man who made me feel so uncomfortable. I was journaling pretty heavily at the time, in this one composition book I had colored purple, writing awful peat poetry about my feelings and things that were going on. One day, in a blind rage in the car with him, I started writing this stream of consciousness style page in which I called him a sick man. I hadn’t connected what he was doing with him being sick, but I suddenly understood why I felt ill about being around him. I was scared of him, scared of how he touched me when it was all fairly innocent on the surface, but it felt like there was some otherness about it that made it fearsome. I was an innocent 14 year old, like I said. I talked about everything at school with my best friend, and some other people who I no longer speak to. They all encouraged me to talk to my mother, though I had no idea how to go about bringing it up. The woman would get angry when the wind changed, how would she feel if I threw this upon her? I thought about waiting some more, about seeing if that was all. My then-unchecked anger had other plans, and a fight in the car with her and the whole family present one night soon after turned into me shouting at my mother what her husband had done to me. I remember the car being silent, then R’s defensiveness. “I didn’t do that. That’s crazy. You’re crazy. I wouldn’t do that.” Over and over. To those I’ve told this story to, I always describe it like those awful liars who just do nothing but repeat the argument until it loses meaning and you don’t believe them anymore. My mother was quiet most of the way home. When we got to the house, she and I sat in my room for three hours and talked about it. Writing that, then rereading that sentence, gives such a happy feeling, like this poor little protagonist is going to be saved because her generally-angry-but-still-a-mother mother will come to the rescue.  This story isn’t about a mother like that. “You’re making me choose between the two of you,” she said to me. “Is this something you’re making up? Why would you put me in the middle like this?” If I made it up then we have bigger problems, I told her. I am not putting you in the middle. I’m telling you what happened and I want you to take care of me. “I have to think long and hard about this,” she said. That ended the conversation for three years. She stayed with him, so as far as making a choice goes, she chose her husband over her daughter. My extended family, who years before had encouraged me to come to them if “anything happened with R,” suddenly all pulled me aside in a weird sort of deja vu. “This is a serious accusation to make. You don’t just say this sort of thing lightly. I don’t know if he’s the sort of person who would do that.” I, much later, found out that R had gone to prison for throwing a TV at his ex wife and her lover when he caught them in his bed. I don’t know what you’d really say he wasn’t the type to do.  After my outburst, as I think my family thought of it, R was suddenly cold to me. Understandably, I suppose, but he was vicious. My name came up a lot in arguments, mostly from his mouth and blaming me for something or other. That I was lazy. Ungrateful. Didn’t care about anyone but myself. Later on in my life, he was the man who would threaten my physically. Later on, he’d call my mother and tell her to come home “before I put your daughter in the hospital.” I started daring him to, begging him to give me a evidence or a reason to call the cops. I think, after telling my mom what he did to me in private, he’s scared of what I’ll tell someone with more authority than my mother. This story doesn’t just peter off into the rest of my life, and how this went unresolved. It IS unresolved, and it did just peter off…. But I haven’t let my mother forget, because I never will. I was 17, after dealing with my father’s death, a move, the worst depression of my life to that point. I hated where I lived, hated that all of the friends I had from my old school stopped talking to me, that I was alone except for less than a handful of people who actually liked me enough to treat me with respect. I hated school, I hated my life, I hated waking up in the morning. One morning, I fought with my mom so badly that just taking me to school and getting me out of her hair wasn’t enough. She turned the car around, we went back into the house and let loose with the yelling. In my house, you win at arguments not if you’re the most logical or make the best point, but if you can stab the knife in just the right place to where your opponent will shut up. You aim to hurt the worst so that they’ll walk away before you have to, before you have to show you’re hurt at all. That morning, I won the fight, by bringing up her husband’s past regarding me. I think I used phrasing to the effect of “being married to a child molester.” My mother, quick to retort, always quick to deflect and blame, simply froze then walked out of the room. She came back in a few minutes later, smelling of cigarettes, slightly shaking. She uttered the phrase you saw above, the phrase that solidified in my mind how far into disbelief she fell simply to rid herself of blame. “You don’t know what happened to you.” I will never, ever, ever forgive her for this sentence. Sadly, this is the way the story ends. I was able to bring this up again, one more time, this past January. I made it clear to my mother that I was not going to forget this event, and that I feel she failed as a mother with this one action.  It’s amazing how the people in my life don’t understand how things can be broken with one thing in spite of the effort they feel they’ve made in other parts of my life. That somehow, my mother providing for me makes up for staying married to the man who might’ve done a lot worse to me if I hadn’t spoken up. My extended family now, at the very least, don’t doubt what I say happened, and as much as they are people who don’t like to make waves that’s the best I’ll get. I know what happened to me.

The Start of my Sexual Awakening

I was a victim of molestation and assault by family members and my former stepdad's nephew via exploit:

"Let's play a game..." "I can tell you're curious for boys, do a taste test on me..." "Everyone thinks you're a f*gg*t anyways..." "You're a growing boy, I can teach you how to be a man..."

I spoke out about it the first time and no one believed me, telling me it wasn't enough to turn me out.

Since then, I've dealt with a lot of emotional pains and let it build up, and I already had a complex about myself from family members and peers filling my head with self-hate so it made matters worse. Then came "You're going to be handsome, the girls gonna be all over you. I guess I should beat them to it" was the final straw and I had enough, I was 12. I finally came out of the closet as bisexual last year when I was 21.

To this day, I can't say if I was turned out, and internalized all the emotions and it manifested, or something was awakened in me, but I've come to terms with myself and reinvented who I am regardless of my past. Needless to say, even though I've grown from it, and I know better; I've warned my little brothers about the dangers of being touched inappropriately, knowing your surroundings, and how to prevent these things, and let them know that I will always to protect them when they need me. I wish my father was around to protect me, he loves me so much, and he would move heaven and earth to my liking. But he was abroad and international calls were out of the question.

I hope to all my abuse victims survivors out there can be an open ear, and shoulder to lean on, and arms to hold and protect our children, women, men and elders who also may be subject to abuse.