Survivors of rape have been photographed for My Body Back, a campaign helping support rape victims
Photographer Rankin has captured some of the most famous faces in the world, from Madonna to the Queen.
But his latest shoot focuses on bodies rather than faces – and it’s all for a very good cause. The My Body Back Project, an initiative founded last year by rape survivor Pavan Amara helps women reclaim their bodies after experiencing sexual assault and rape.
In August 2015 Pavan helped set up the very first clinic in the world designed specifically for the long-term healthcare of rape survivors, offering cervical screening, STI testing and contraception for women who have experienced sexual assault.
For her latest My Body Back campaign, Pavan has enlisted the help of photographer Rankin, who has captured survivors with temporary tattoos on their skin – each one a message of strength and resilience. ‘I was truly moved by this project and humbled to be involved,’ said Rankin. ‘The sheer strength of these women, after what they have been through, left me speechless. The importance of the work My Body Back do can’t really be expressed in words. They are brave in the extreme. It was an honour to welcome you all into my studio; our door is always open. I speak on behalf of my entire team when I say you are an inspiration.’
Here are a few of the images, along with stories from the rape survivors themselves.
‘I was a model before being attacked, I’d just started working. But after the attack, I felt my face and body had been violated. I couldn’t look in the mirror any more. I stopped modelling. I had enjoyed it and it was making me good money. After the attack, I was offered fewer jobs. I was outspoken about what had happened, and people in the industry didn’t want to be associated with rape – as if it were my fault. It was as if I was damaged goods. But being part of the My Body Back campaign has shown me how much times have changed, and through organisations like this we can drive even more change. Hopefully we can finally start talking about something that affects 1 in 4 women. Years after the attack, others can’t see the damage to your body but you can feel it. Thanks to the My Body Back Project I now feel that damage has been reversed.’
‘The day I wrote out my phrase was ironically on the 18th anniversary of the rape happening. I thought about it, and allowed myself to feel what I really felt. I wrote my phrase because it’s all about choice, about who I choose to be – strong – and what I choose to feel – beautiful. He thought he took away my choice, but he didn’t. I chose my phrase for My Body Back Project, I’m still saying what I want to say and publicly.’
‘When I was 19 (in 1998) I lived with my older brother Dan and our 5 friends in Highbury, North London. One night a stranger broke into our house and attacked me, and after telling me he had killed my brother downstairs (he hadn’t), he raped me and then tried to kill me. He was caught via DNA evidence and pleaded guilty. He received 14 years. Due to restrictions in sentencing the Judge was unable to give him a life sentence, and he voiced his concern about limitations of sentencing. He was a serial rapist and there was evidence that he had been planning to murder me, so I count myself very lucky that I managed to survive.’
‘For me, My Body Back means renewal. Being involved was really powerful for me. Being part of this shoot was like a full stop, a defining moment. It showed me how far I’d come. I looked at my image and I realised I had come full circle. It felt like I was marking the end of life events that had defined the way things were for too long. It allowed me to reclaim me and what happened, and have my power given back to me with solidarity.
‘I am so glad this exists. If it wasn’t for this project there would be no one talking about the physical repercussions of sexual violence and what we can do about that. I’m so pleased Rankin got involved. There are thousands of women who have felt this way, and finally it’s being acknowledged that sexual violence doesn’t just affect you emotionally, but physically too.
‘There is nothing with more power than a group of strong, connected, and powerful women, and that’s what the My Body Back Project is. Doing this shoot rebooted me. One in four women experience some form of serious sexual violence, so in a way it’s become normalised, like it’s not even a crime any more. A lot of women who have been through that feel like they no longer own themselves. The My Body Back campaign is about reclaiming your body and your power, and I hope women worldwide will connect with it and feel solidarity.’
‘I wanted my birth mark in my photo because it’s unique to me. My birth mark is a sign that my body is mine. Sexual violence strips you of who you thought you were and you start perceiving your body differently. But this was reclaiming me, there was my birthmark, something that’s always been a part of me. It showed me my body really is mine and no one can take that away from me.’