Last October, Mount Holyoke junior Ali Safran returned to her Massachusetts hometown to hang a sign. She’d been assaulted three years earlier in the exact spot where she now posted her story, a statistic about sexual violence, and a call to action.
Now, Safran is providing other students with a platform to hang their own signs for a much bigger audience.
Reflecting on her own frustrations with the criminal justice system after her assault, “I felt that people probably had similar stories,” Safran recalls. In honor of April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, she has launched “Surviving in Numbers,” a Tumblr dedicated to amplifying the voices of campus survivors by publishing pictures of posters like her own. Although reminiscent of projects like “Surviving, at Amherst College,” “Surviving in Numbers” offers a unique focus: victims’ attempts–successful and unsuccessful–to tell their stories and reach out for support after facing violence. Safran explains on the website:
The name of the project is doubly meaningful: it’s a play on the phrase “strength in numbers,” as there truly is a strength among these and other survivors who speak out about their experiences. Additionally, the project is truly about survivors and the numbers around their experiences: how many people they told, how the assault cost them relationships, etc… I also hope to show how key it is to the healing process for a survivor when they tell their stories: if they’re supported and believed, it starts them down a supportive path to healing; if they’re admonished or blamed, it has terrible effects.
Blurry campus views peak out from behind each sign. However, unlike many recent anti-violence student activists, Safran doesn’t want to shame an individual school into action. “While sometimes its a particular administrator who is to blame, [sexual assault] can happen at any campus,” she says. “I wanted to engage with administrators more than put them on the defensive.”
Physical sign installations are up at Mount Holyoke, UMass Amherst, Boston University, and Tufts. However, survivors from across the country can submit their stories through the Tumblr. Safran can also make and hang a poster for those who feel uncomfortable publicly displaying their narratives. Check out more images from “Surviving in Numbers” after the jump.