Statistics in America state that one in four girls and one in seven boys are sexually abused before they reach the age of 17, but that fewer than one in ten will ever speak about the experience.
Child sexual abuse crosses all socioeconomic, ethnic, religious and gender boundaries, and has an impact on every community and every person in America. People who suffer sexual abuse in childhood are far more likely to experience psychological problems (post-traumatic stress syndrome, low self-esteem, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse and intimacy issues) that often last into adulthood if they don't come to terms with what happened to them.
Due to the disturbing nature of the issue and the shame and silence surrounding it, the crime is rarely discussed. When it is, the media tend to focus on sensationalistic stories or cold statistics. Lorena Ros' project, "Silent Witness," will employ photography to give survivors a voice, documenting the impact and prevalence of childhood sexual abuse in society and providing a safe and respectful way for survivors to address and share their experiences.
Her project comprises a series of direct, stark and moving portraits of adult survivors of sexual abuse who believe that showing their faces and disclosing their stories to the world will contribute to the prevention of future abuse. Along with the portraits, the project incorporates photos of sites where the crimes took place and of settings that triggered memories of these experiences, which so marked each survivor. Archival pictures of the survivors at the age of their abuse, audio interviews of their stories and written testimonies will complete the project.
"Silent Witness" demonstrates the diversity of the survivors' experiences while at the same time depicting the common threads linking them. A powerful project that will bring positive awareness to our society on behalf of survivors who can't speak about their abuse due to social taboos, it will also help raise awareness of efforts to prevent one of the most hidden crimes in North America.
Ros will use her Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography to photograph, make audio interviews and collect supporting narratives from 30 survivors throughout the US over a period of one year. She intends to involve male and female survivors of different ages and economic backgrounds who suffered from different kinds of abuse. Ros has engaged with a network of nonprofit organizations in the US to locate survivors willing to participate in this project and to provide resources to participants.
The prospective outcome will be a book and traveling exhibition focusing on 15 survivors (60 images) to be displayed in various communities in conjunction with events involving multimedia educational outreach, such as speeches and lectures as well as screenings and/or gatherings. A planned web page featuring select photos and texts will also describe the project and offer information and resources for survivors.
Lorena Ros was born in Barcelona in 1975. She graduated with a degree in humanities and literature from the University Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona and later did postgraduate work in photojournalism at the London College of Printing. Ros' interest in photojournalism began with her first trip abroad to conflict-torn East Timor. Since then, her work on female trafficking and other social issues has received honors from World Press Photo, the Ian Parry Awards, FotoPress, Amnesty International and CARE at Visa Pour l'Image.
Her photographs have appeared in Newsweek, Time, The Sunday Times, D magazine, Elle and El Pais, among other publications. Ros has completed photo projects for the Soros Foundation/Open Society Institute, Medecins du Monde, Health Net International, Antislavery International and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Her work is represented by Panos Pictures, UK and can be seen at www.lorenaros.com.
She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.