The Silent Tears exhibition. Photo Copyright Belinda Mason
On Friday, 18 March 2016, Silent Tears, a multimedia exhibition by world renowned Australian photographer, Belinda Mason and digital artists Dieter Knierim, Margherita Coppolino and Denise Beckwith kicks off in New York. The exhibition reveals the lived experiences of 20 disabled women subjected to violence and women who acquired a disability through violence. The launch will bring these women together to speak about their experiences of gendered-based violence. For most of these women, this exhibition is the first time they publicly disclose the extreme forms of violence they experienced either as girl-child, a young woman or as an adult woman. They reveal the long-term consequences of violence, including the making of disabilities – mental, emotional and physical. Silent Tears reflects the incredible sense of aloneness, fear and isolation endured by these women over many years, navigating the pervasive effects of violence on their sense of self and self-worth and the ongoing effects of violence that lives within. Karen Soldatic caught up with Rochelle (Little Rock), Carolyn (Butcher of Bega), Betty (Unseen) and Amao (Transend), four of these woman on their way to NYC for the UN 60th Commission on the Status of Women. In this first of a three part series, we asked them to tell us abit more about their motivations to be involved. The women were complete strangers until they got on the plane from Sydney to NYC.
KS: What were your main motivations for getting involved in this exhibition?
Rochelle: The reason I am here and trying to get my story out there is because I want to stop the violence within the family home and save one child, I want to do everything I can. I don’t want any child to go through what I had to go through, living with horrific violence in the family home as I did. I experienced violence as a child growing up and also in marriage as an adult. The journey of oneself should have a sense of purpose; a validation. That through sharing is a part of the healing process
The journey of oneself should have a sense of purpose; a validation. That through sharing is a part of the healing process
Carolyn: Well, I was contacted by Belinda late last year. She came down to where I live in Bega. She took films and the photographs. I said to her, “regardless of what happens, I will be there.” I wanted to be part of this so that things change for women, all over the world, so they don’t have happen to them what happened to me. Belinda came out of the blue and I jumped in with both arms, so I could be here and tell my story.
Betty: I got involved with the exhibition a little differently as I knew Belinda personally and had a lot to do with her photography over the years. I was at her house and she was telling me about this project. Belinda hadn’t heard about my story before, she didn’t know that I had been sexually abused by my father. She told me the story of the project and the photos and then I told her my story. It was the first time I had spoken out. I have two teenage daughters and I don’t want them to go through the shit I went through and that’s why I knew I wanted to be involved. I want people to stop doing this shit to children.
Amao: My main purpose for partaking in the exhibition was to share a part of me and my journey; highlighting the plight of one who has succumbed to being a victim of violence. The challenges one goes through and the effects on ones personal well-being. By participating allows a form of acknowledging to oneself; that the journey of oneself should have a sense of purpose; a validation. That through sharing is a part of the healing process.
Karen: So being a part of this exhibition is important to you all. Can you explain to us a little more about this?
Rochelle: It’s about giving us a voice, to be heard. It will be heard here, definitely. It will be heard on a range of levels. The most important thing that can come out of this exhibition is for people to recognize that violence does happen, that it happens all the time. I want people to be aware of it so that people stop turning a blind eye to what is happening. As a child growing up, I had no one to turn to for support, that’s why there are now organisations that support adult survivors of child abuse. So there needs to be greater awareness.
It should be absolutely included in the school curriculum so that children have a safe place to go and get support. Also awareness for teachers in schools to be able to see what is going on. Maybe then we can reach children that way, through the schools and the teachers.
In my situation I never missed a day of school. I always wanted to go to school because it was a safe place for me. The teachers did know on some level what was going on but at that time there was no mandatory reporting, school counseling, they didn’t know what to do. They could see it, but I think back then they hoped it would go away and things would get better.
Carolyn: I want the world to know what happened to me as I don’t want any, any, anyone to have happened to them what had happened to me. Even though I was an adult when it happened to me, I fully understand what the effects are on a 7 year old child who is subjected to Female Genital Mutilation because I fully understand its effects on me as an adult. I had lived a life, I had been loved and then… I lost everything. This can’t happen to another person. We are all here to make this stop.
Betty: My sisters were abused as well. Because of my low self-esteem from the abuse, I couldn’t go to anyone. I wasn’t believed. I had no one. I had nothing. Plus I was in a small country town, so you say one thing to someone and it gets around so I had no one. I had nothing. Because I had no one, I ended up in a marriage that was abusive as well. After having my children, I realized I couldn’t do it to them. I left that marriage and now I am seeing my daughters grow up without violence.
I just want every child to be protected. I just want every child to be protected as they deserve to have a childhood. So coming here is very important. People are starting to take notice. People are wanting to do something about it. That’s why this exhibition is so important. It needs to be supported. If they see my face they will see how important it is. They can’t hide from us participants, that’s why its important that us participants show our faces and tell our stories.
The Silent Tears Project is co-hosted as a parallel event with the Australian Government, as part of the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York, US.
For more info on The Silent Tears project click here
The exhibition is held at: 601 W 26th St Suite 325, New York, NY 10001, United States. Launch on Friday, 18 March 2016, from 6.30pm – 9.30pm. Entrance is free and all welcome, but guests are kindly asked to RSVP. You can do this here