Phyllis, 55, Charleston. Phyllis’s father was a janitor of apartments in Ohio. He would take her to the job sites as a young child, where he sexually abused her. As she grew older, Phyllis resisted and began to fight back when he tried to touch her. Her parents blamed Phyllis for being such a rebellious girl. Finally, she left home and went to live with a friend’s family. She lost contact with her family. Years later, as an adult, Phyllis finally confronted her father. He put the blame on her instead. They haven’t spoken since. When they buried her father, Phyllis remembers thinking: “He can never hurt another person, he can never hurt another woman or child”Lorena Ros
Survivors of Childhood  Sexual Violence
Survivors of Childhood  Sexual Violence
Survivors of Childhood  Sexual Violence
Phyllis, 55, Charleston. Phyllis’s father was a janitor of apartments in Ohio. He would take her to the job sites as a y
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Lorena Ros
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Powerful Photos of Child Sex Abuse Survivors

Sep 16, 2014

Lorena Ros, a Spain-based photojournalist, has been documenting abuse of power in various countries around the world. Her first book, Unspoken, a testimony in pictures and words of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, brings her home to a widespread human tragedy that has rarely been photographed.

In the car, on our way to the train-station, my aunt asked me if I had mentioned anything to my mother about the ‘incident...’ I was shocked. It was something that had remained unspoken for years and I had blocked it out of my mind. My uncle and my aunt were afraid that “the secret” was about to be revealed to the family and they were trying to persuade me to be silent - as I had been for the last 30 years...

It was the summer of 2000 - a bomb was about to go off in my life, a bomb that would forever change my relationship with my family, relationships within the family itself and, of course, the rest of my life.

Five years later, I was selected as a participant of the World Press Master class and asked to develop an essay around the concept “Ordinary”. I decided to photograph survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, starting with my own city. Over the years I had focused on stories related to “the abuse of power”- it was a recurrent subject -In my stories I was seeking the truth; there was a story that was very close to us and widespread and yet hardly documented – it was very much a taboo subject.

In 2008, Raquel’s photograph was part of an exhibit in Barcelona (she was abused by her father for years, her mother never believed her and she was forced to leave home.) Raquel hadn’t spoken to her mother in years but invited her for coffee that evening. And without telling her where they were going, brought her to the exhibition. When Raquel’s mother saw and heard other similar stories, it changed both their lives for ever.

As I begun my work on child sex abuse, what first struck me was how vulnerable and fearless my subjects were. Opening their lives, talking about it, was the only way, I realized to fight child sexual abuse.

As I met more and more ‘survivors’, I felt that my essay on ‘Ordinary,’ could, should be a longer-term project, perhaps even a book. Through bearing witness, I was also telling my own story – something which I had never done publicly.

It has been an eight-year journey of growth both as a photographer and as a woman. A journey of self-discovery. Through the survivors I’ve photographed, I found the courage to confront my own ghosts and tell my own story. I realized that I was not alone. It was my life and my work coming together. It has been an often a painful exercise in honesty, a cathartic process of knowing who I am; to understand why I was drawn to the subjects I was drawn to over the years.

In many ways, Unspoken, my first book has helped me to understand Who I am? Why I take pictures and why I do it well.

Lorena Ros is a photojournalist whose work has appeared in Newsweek, El Pais And The Sunday Times Magazine, among others. Unspoken is available now.

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