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Unique photo exhibit put cameras in the hands of survivors of domestic and sexual violence

(CTV News) (CTV News)
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A unique photo exhibit is putting cameras into the hands of survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Journey Project’s Photovoice exhibit is travelling across the province this month, featuring 14 photos showcasing transformations — the theme of this year’s project.

Each of the photographers are survivors of sexual or domestic violence. The project, now in its third year, is designed to give survivors a creative outlet to express themselves, and have full creative control of their artwork.

The project is designed to give survivors a creative outlet to express themselves, and have full creative control of their artwork.(CTV News)

"If they want to add things, take them away, whatever it is that they want, they get to do that and they control every piece of that piece of art," said Ashley MacDonald, who organized the photo exhibit and contributed one work.

Control is crucial to the project, MacDonald said, as so many survivors of sexual and domestic violence feel that they lose control when they are victimized.

It can happen again as they work through a complex criminal justice system, facing questions from police, judges and criminal defence lawyers.

"That can feel very disempowering. It can feel very traumatizing," MacDonald explained.

Many of the photographers don’t feel like they can say much about their photos, as they continue to deal with the criminal justice system.

The majority of the works were submitted anonymously, with some explanation. (CTV News)

The majority of the works were submitted anonymously, with some explanation.

"I keep my eye on the reflection of the past. It’s like water, it reminds me what was there," one photographer wrote when describing their photo — a picture of a lake in Labrador with the sun low in the sky.

"I breathe in the sky, shining my path. That’s where I am. Not where you are," they wrote.

MacDonald herself submitted a double exposure photo to the exhibit.

She said one photo was a self-portrait captured more than a decade ago, before she was assaulted, and another photo 10 years after that.

"It’s been 12 years of process and progress for me," she said. "And so that photo, I think, was just the next logical step."

The photo exhibit will stop in Corner Brook and Happy Valley-Goose Bay before viewing is over on April 26th.

MacDonald said in its three years, it’s been well received by the community, and has become a supportive force for survivors.

"There’s something really beautiful as a survivor to be in the space and to watch the community come in and to see what you've created and to support you in that"

The photo exhibit will stop in Corner Brook and Happy Valley-Goose Bay before viewing is over on April 26th. (CTV News)

If you or someone you know is struggling with sexual assault or trauma, the following resources are available to support people in crisis:

If you are in immediate danger or fear for your safety, you should call 911.

A full list of sexual assault centres in Canada that offer information, advocacy and counselling can be found ​on the website for the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres

Helplines, legal services and locations that offer sexual assault kits in Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia can be found here

National Residential School Crisis Line: +1 866 925 4419

24-hour crisis line: 416 597 8808 

Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline: +1 833 900 1010 

Trans Lifeline: +1 877 330 6366

Sexual misconduct support for current or former members of the Armed Forces: +1 844 750 1648

Read about your rights as a victim here. ​

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