Fortitude is a photo series depicting the journey of a dear friend through overcoming sexual assault.

“I was sexually abused at 6 years old.”
“I didn’t know him. He stopped me on my way home from school, asking for help finding a building.”
“Identifying with the South Asian community, many asked: “Why did you talk with a stranger?” “Why did you go to help?” “It was all your fault.” I suffered through blame, guilt, trauma and no one to share the emotions with and seek support. It was reported to the city officials but he was never found.”
“10 years went by with nightmares, claustrophobia, depression, and in denial as if it never happened.”
“10 years later, city officials brought news to my doorsteps. They’ve found him and he’s convicted many other sexual abuse crimes. I was given the choice to stand trial and go to court. As a South Asian young woman, the ‘right’ choice was to say no and drop the case. I knew I needed closure, so with the support of city officials, I stood the trials and he pleaded guilty.”
“My biggest support system was my boyfriend (now husband). He sat through the court trials, held my hand, accepted my past and taught me to let go and forgive.”
“I was asked by the judge to write a VIS (victim impact statement). I wrote about forgiveness – that I have forgiven him and no longer impacted by this event, but inspired.. inspired to build a career in mental health, inspiring young people and building their resiliency.”
“Today I am happy, successful, and living life true to who I am. I work with at-risk youth, helping them overcome obstacles in their life and ensuring they get the support that they need. The past has only made me stronger and more resilient than ever.”

Sexual abuse is so often overlooked, not only in South Asian communities, but many communities worldwide. Many do not offer any support or even acknowledge it, for fear of bringing shame to the family and to themselves. So many have been silenced, with no one to talk to. Let’s start the conversation. Let’s break the taboo.

Thank you Yathu for sharing your story and allowing me to photograph you.

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