The SURVIVOR photo project was born out of a series of therapeutic photo sessions for women who have experienced domestic violence. This is a project from women to women. A group of 9 woman made this sessions real. A total of 32 women and 17 children were photographed. The purpose of the photo sessions was to enable women who have experienced violence to find themselves again, to see themselves with new eyes, to declare the right to be themselves. Only 11 heroines were ready to show their face in public.
Many of women received the help of specialists from the public association "Radislava" or lived in a shelter for women and children affected by violence. This is a community of women united by a common problem and similar stories. There is still no law on countering domestic violence in Belarus. Fem. activist, founder of NGO "Radislava" Olga Gorbunova, who is also one of the heroines of the project, united many women around her to help each other. Some of the women who got into the shelter created by Olga later became activists and volunteers of the "Radislava" association. Olga has repeatedly conducted trainings for police in Belarus to improve their interaction with victims of domestic tyrants. The Government of Belarus promoted itself at the expense of the organisation in the field of freedoms and human rights, without providing legal or financial support to organisation.
Each heroine of the project tells a frank story, about which it is customary to remain silent. By their example, they want to make the problem of violence visible, as well as support those who are afraid of being accused, rejected today. The one who does not have the resource and the belief that there is help. They talk about the strength to ask for help, to survive the pain, fear, despair, shame, guilt that they experienced, or were forced to experience. These are stories about finding yourself and regaining control over your life.
Their faces are open, which means that there is no more fear here today. Fear of asking for help. Fear for their lives and the lives of their children and loved ones. Fear of being rejected and blamed by loved ones and strangers who find out. There is only the strength and desire to make violence visible, to witness. The strength to look at yourself and see yourself with your own eyes, and not with the eyes of those who have devalued, humiliated and insulted for years. The power to turn the private into the public. The strength to come to life, because violence is a small death. The desire to motivate those women who live here and today in a situation of violence to positive changes in their lives. The desire to rejoice and be.
Each of these women was subjected to violence. Violence is different, but equally terrible. Different people caused them pain and suffering. Spouses, partners, parents. Each of these women knows that there is a life "before" and there is a life "after". And he knows the value of this difference.
The path to a life without violence is a long and difficult path for everyone. Due to the insufficient number of effective levers of protection and support, severe psychological state, public censure of victims and interpretation of violence as the norm, women can live in a situation of violence for many years.
And even at the moment when a woman, regardless of her age and social portrait, realizes that she lives in a situation of violence, that is, identifies herself as a victim, she immediately finds herself in a systemic problem with many root causes, which means that the number of problematic moments that she needs to solve immediately is disproportionately greater than her own resources.
These portraits and the words of the heroines are the contribution, the contribution of the survivors, so that this resource becomes a little more.
Photography: Dasha Buben
Text: Dasha Tsaryk