One rape survivor is transforming the way we talk about sexual violence through the medium of art.
Around 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped every year in England and Wales - meaning around 11 adults are assaulted every hour. But despite sexual assault being extremely commonplace worldwide, rape is still a taboo. One survivor is striving to change this through the medium of art.
Elisa Iannacone, a photographer and rape survivor, is creating a series of images which explores the psychological impact of sexual assault. Each photograph features the survivor in a carefully-composed scene which they associate with their attack. They are not what you would expect to see when you hear the word rape - but they show how an assault can take place in any circumstance and to anybody.
"I am essentially trying to put into photographs the images stuck in people's minds after an assault. Those images you have carried with you and haven't been able to let go of after the incident," Iannacone says.
"I'm speaking to rape survivors to understand what [the images] are and to make them visual."
After talking to people interested in taking part in the project, she found many were drawn to specific colours which resonated with their experiences.
"The end result will be a series of 24 pictures that go through the colour wheel and are all going to be laid out in a circle so when you enter the exhibition, you can see the whole gamut, which alludes to the notion of being in a spiral."
Working with the survivors and a psychotherapist, Iannacone put together each scene meticulously to reflect each person's thoughts and feelings. One woman - featured in the violet image - is a fashion designer, so she designed her own dress out of wrapping paper. In another photo, below, the surreal setting depicts the male victim's story of being raped at a party after visiting a nightclub.
"He was very attached to the image of this car because his attacker owned a red convertible," Iannacone says. "He said he felt everything around him felt like a circus and he couldn't remember everyone's faces but the feeling of everything happening around him."
With funding, the final project - called The Spiral of Containment: Rape's Aftermath - will be exhibited as an art installation in London and the images will be published in a book.
The project was inspired by Iannacone's own experience, and her desire to express her feelings around the attack in a different way.
"I decided to set up this project because I was raped five years ago. I did art therapy as part of my healing process and realised that was probably the best kind of therapy for me," she says. "Once I kind of got my life back on track and felt more whole, I realised I still wanted to express something about what had happened."
Her assault left her particularly attached to the image of a pair of broken wings. "It was the idea of having wings and feeling like they were broken so I couldn't really go anywhere. I realised each person probably had a different image. I had wings, but someone else would have something else."
Although the process of speaking to survivors and hearing their stories has been emotionally difficult, Iannacone says it has contributed to her own healing process.
"I guess it has taken me on a healing journey - dealing with the topic, expressing it in different ways and sharing it with other people. The really great thing I've found is that a lot of people have told me how healing they found this process as well," she says.
By discussing sexual assault and its impact so openly in the project, Iannacone hopes to change the often-stigmatising rhetoric surrounding sexual assault.
"We are used to seeing distressing or photojournalistic images when it comes to sexual violence, but this also makes many people turn away from them - I think it's a combination of compassion fatigue and mere desensitisation.
"Rape happens to people from all walks of life and I don't see the point in making us look like victims and perpetuating this notion that we must somehow be broken. Many of us are strong, driven individuals with whole lives outside of the assault. Though this will be a part of me forever, it does not define me as a human being. The images are meant to bring this point to life as well.
"Rape is so commonplace, it happens in first world countries to developing countries, it happens everywhere - to any race and any gender. We need to open up the discourse around it, and stop making it something we can't discuss."
Iannacone recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the project. The project is part of Reframe, a company launched by the artist to address social issues in creative ways.
Making art from sexual assault: 'Rape happens - we need to make it something we can discuss' October 26, 2016Tweet