Vanessa Hillstead, 32
Burnaby, B.C., Canada

Molested by her adoptive father, raped by a man who also raped her friend and sexually abused by a foster brother who father her two children. Now Hillstead works for abused women through the Kootneys for the Immigrant and Minority Women of B.C. and the United Nations Association in Canada.

Visit the Faces of Rape and Sexual Abuse Exhibit

Nobuko Oyabu
www.nobukoonline.com

Many think it will never happen to them. I was one of the many until the night my former neighbor broke in my apartment and raped me on August 9th, 1999. That night, I was forced to wake up to the reality: the reality I didn't see how easy for anyone to be the next victim. The reality is that we are often blinded by the confusions about sex in this society. That night, I was forced to learn how much it hurts to be violated in very sacred place; my womb. The offender was sentenced to 20 years in prison. I am one of few lucky victims who got some sort of justice. But I know majority are not so lucky. I now can't stop wondering how many victims are out there crying alone tonight.

Statistics* show that one out of three women in the world has experience of being raped or sexually assaulted. In the United States, one of four women of all ages and one out six men by age 18 has been sexually abused, and the sex crime takes place every 60 seconds. Some may say it's better than other countries like South Africa where the rape happens in every 20 seconds. In Southeast Asia, girls are being sold for prostitutions to feed their families. But does the number matter when someone's daughter, wife, sister, or mother is hurting?

My project "Faces of Rape and Sexual Abuse Survivors" reveals the inner strength of women and men who have been put to the ultimate trial of their lives. Despite being victimized, many are determined to make it through. Most, including me, are still in the healing process. Survivors may never overcome the violent event completely, but life goes on. We have to move on.

This project will expose the issue of rape and sexual abuse which is probably the darkest secret in many families and personal histories. It challenges society to face the reality of this type of crime, and promotes the awareness of how common this violence is.

To Contact Nobuko

Nobuko Oyabu
Face Project
P.O. Box 8823
Omaha, NE 68108-0823

I hope that it also helps break the stereotypes toward the sexual assault through the photographs of the survivors, both women and men, in different age groups, and ethnic and economical backgrounds. It is happening everywhere in many different forms no matter who you are and where you are. It is not just a woman's issue. Neither is it just a racial or religious issue. It is a very basic human rights issue.

I am seeking more participants and financial support. I know how hard and painful to break the silence. However, there are stories that must be told in order to protect others. I have already come to know many brave survivors who helped me break the silence by putting their faces in front of my camera. If there are survivors who are interested in being part of the project or if you are the one, please contact with me. I will find the way to meet her/ him. I am eager to travel since I already have survivors to photograph in England, South Africa, South Korea, Japan, and all over the United States. In order to include different forms of sexual abuse, I want to go as many places as possible if there are women and men who are willing to share their stories to save others.

By sharing my journey through this project, I hope that a victim will know there is hope in her or his future, a survivor will no longer feel guilty nor ashamed, someone vulnerable will become a little cautious around herself or himself not to be the next victim, and a potential assailant will notice that a victim can be someone he loves, such as his daughter, wife, sister, or mother.

*reference from April 2000 report from the Rape Prevention Resource
Center of California Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

 


About Nobuko Oyabu

 

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