I was raped and I was devastated, so I took my camera and took these pictures
Rosem Morton is a photographer and nurse who lives in Baltimore. The opinions expressed here are from her: "I photographed everything from what I was seeing to what was happening and how ...
- Click to share on Facebook (It opens in a new window)
- Click to share on Twitter (It opens in a new window)
- Click here to share on LinkedIn (It opens in a new window)
- Click to send by email to a friend (It opens in a new window)
Editor's note: Rosem Morton is a photographer and nurse who lives in Baltimore. The opinions expressed here are from her.
(CNN) - After I was raped, the days felt interminable. I felt as if I was coming out of a deep well, drowning, dying of hunger, dying. I could not sleep. I could not eat. I could not work It existed in a space where panic attacks were frequent and unpredictable. Where is the security? What is safe? I was overwhelmed and terrified. The feeling was too much and I needed to control it. In trying to make sense of my experience, I took my camera and started shooting.
I spent a lot of time behind closed doors and began to notice the comings and goings of light. Raising my hand to meet the Sun, I remind myself that I am still surviving.
I photographed everything from what I was seeing to what was happening and how I felt. I felt like every survivor there was out there. If there was not enough evidence, it did not happen. I kept photographing my test. The proof of my struggle, of my survival. I learned to progress through the lens of a camera. The work became an expression of my pains and silenced sufferings.
LOOK: A teenager was accused of rape, but a judge did not want to be judged as an adult because "he comes from a good family"
When I told my husband that I had been raped, I said: "I will go to therapy for a couple of months and I will leave all this behind." By November, I had been seeing my therapist every week for four months. At the end of this session, I crashed my car and realized that the work had just begun.
According to the National Network of Rape, Abuse and Incest (RAINN), an American is sexually assaulted every 92 seconds. One in six American women has been a victim of intent or complete violation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention links the trauma of sexual violence to a host of short- and long-term consequences, including chronic health problems, decreased ability to work and, what is worse, a increased risk of more sexual or partner violence.
"Are you sure. Are you sure. You are safe". That was my mantra to calm me down.
These statistics are alarming, but a year ago I did not think much about it. I naively thought that if I followed what I had been taught, avoid the dark alleys, avoid dressing provocatively and distrust strangers, I would be above that situation. Instead, apart from destroying my misconceptions, every part of me was shattered by my assault.
LEE: "Yes it was rape": they raise to 15 years of jail sentence against "La herd" after ruling of the Supreme Court of Spain
In October, I received a phone call from my rapist. It was not an admission of guilt or an apology. It was a phone call to tell me how he felt his actions were justified. The phone call was so devastating that I crashed my car in the garage and broke the side mirror. A few days later, I looked at myself in the broken pieces.
I kept walking away and saying "no, no, no". He did not stop. I remember that he was shaking uncontrollably on that warm summer day. I felt as if a vacuum consumed me from the inside out. I am left with nothing. I became nothing.
On a piece of torn paper, I wrote the details of my attack so that my husband could read them. "When you're ready," he said.
But I do not want to focus on the details of my assault. For me, the focus is on the consequences.
This photo, taken in February, was the first time since the assault that I traveled alone to a place where I did not know anyone.
I left my aggressor stunned and walked for an hour home. I told my best friend that she did not believe me or understand me. We had followed everything they taught us to do. How could it happen? It was done and it was done. I called my husband and he asked me if I had reported him.
I did not do it. I was frozen. It's funny how our body deceives us to help us survive. At that moment, I felt as if everything had happened a day ago, when in fact only a few hours had passed. I felt it was too late. I felt it was too late to matter.
MIRA: The details of the accusation of rape against Neymar
A letter from my husband, Ian, says: "I knew you were strong, but now I can see how truly strong you are. You have been challenged more than anyone should endure, but I can see in you the determination and strength that will help you overcome all this. I knew you were special, but now I know how amazing you are. I can never explain how wonderful you are, or what you mean to me, or to what extent you have helped me grow. But please, I know you're the most amazing person I've ever met. Please, I know that I love you for all you are. "
In a week, I was lucky to find help. My gynecologist, from whom I sought treatment after the attack, recognized that he was in crisis and helped me find the right therapist. I decided to tell my friends more to get more support. Instead, I felt more guilt and shame.
My dogs, Maia and Akira, feel the changes. They come one after the other, licking me and encouraging me to continue.
When I told more people, I endured unfavorable responses. Open to tell the experience so soon had its cost. I felt as if I was bleeding. I thought I really needed them to believe me and support me. All I really needed was to believe and support myself. What happened was not and it's not my fault.
"Your touch comforts me." Ian and I tangled our legs closer together.
These are fragments of my past life, demolished and ready to be rebuilt.
With some of my friends, it seemed that it was easy for them to ask me how I was doing and then it was easier to ignore me if I gave an honest and uncomfortable answer. The truth is that nobody is prepared for this type of trauma because nobody talks about traumas.
LEE: Report a gang rape to a teenager in a tourist center in Honduras
A 20-hour flight is a long time to be in your own head. I'm restless and anxious, so I pick up my phone to photograph.
Anxiety starts from the inside and tries to find your way out.
Later, I decided to report the violation. People offered their own opinions, most of which were discouraging. They said that my life would be turned upside down on behalf of a man who would get away with it.
I have always loved wild flowers. I admire its ability to flourish and thrive.
In a highly stressful job, I fear that trauma and stress collide. How then can I take care of my patients?
They warned me about what the court would be like, but not about the trauma of the reporting process. When I told the police officer that I was reporting a rape, she took me out of the building and made me present my case in public. She interrupted me and said I could not take my statement.
LEE: A 71-year-old man was arrested for 100 counts of child rape
I started eating a warm dish of oatmeal every morning. It helps me feel something, as well as cold, inside.
I spent my birthday in March driving back and forth in the torrential rain of Baltimore.
It was devastating to ask someone to do their "serve and protect" work, but it was also a great shock to have to beg a woman to believe another woman. I spoke with many agents who later told me that this case was not worth it. Now I realize some of the many reasons why, according to the 2016 Justice Department numbers, almost 80% of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported, and RAINN reports that of every 1,000 assailants, 995 of them they go free. Too often, our culture tells us that it is better to do the easy thing instead of doing the right thing.
I saw my gynecologist for a follow-up visit. He asked me how I was and he really looked at me. I learned that people are supporting me.
Still, I found another policeman for my statement. I told my story, but I never heard of any investigation or follow-up. Although it hurts, I tell myself that I still defended myself. Sometimes, help. For the most part, photography has helped. It has shortened the gap by allowing my voice I believed to be silenced forever to be heard. Over time, I discovered what I finally crave. I crave a connection with myself that I lost.
I am coming back to know my body and what it means to be in intimacy again.
By completing this photographic project, I am learning that rape is not just an assault on the mind and body, but also the voice. I always think about how my life could have been different if I had known a story like the one that happened to me. Maybe when they raped me when I was 18, I would have understood what happened to me. I could have received help. Maybe, when I was 27 years old, I would not have been raped. Maybe I would not have taken that rape to get into therapy, where I would begin to make sense of the traumas in my life.
I told myself that one day I will be tattooing wild flowers as a testimony of what I have endured.
My husband sometimes asks me: "Why are you sharing this job now, so early in your experience? Because you can not wait?". I always answer: "Because it's important. I feel it is necessary. " Although this turbulent journey is far from over, I am forced to talk and share my story. The world may be determined to silence us, but I am even more determined to speak and share my story. My project is dedicated to the innocent girl who was already many others who think they are alone. You are not alone.
Photo editors: Brett Roegiers and Bernadette Tuazon