We Are SuStained

We set out to tell the stories of sexual assault in a real and captivating way. We realized that sharing stories of sexual assault is hard, especially putting into words exactly how each occurrence felt. Rather than putting it into words, we wanted to share visually how the acts of violence and aggression leave stains on our bodies, our minds, and the rest of our lives.

This photo series depicts women who have bravely taken a stance against sexual violence. The paint that we used reveals where we felt violated on our bodies. We have stained our bodies to share those pieces of the story.

It is a self reflection through art, as well as a healing process.

Our hope is that these photos speak the words we can’t and tell the stories of the emotions we face, without us saying a word.


We have sustained years of feeling as though we are not enough, as if our bodies don't mean anything, as if we are worth nothing.

No one story is alike and no experience is ever the same.

We share our stories to remind survivors that we are not alone. It is beautiful to have sustained something so heinous but come out on the other side stronger. The part of you that wants to heal is stronger than the part of you that is broken, and healing comes when we accept that we are not responsible for anything that happened.

The Team
Esther Knox

At the age of 16, Esther was raped by someone she was close with. For nearly 6 years, she did not speak to anyone about it, and attempted to block the memories out of her brain. One summer night, the first summer Esther spent in Chicago, she opened up for the first time about her past to a group of women she barely knew. Her vulnerability that night would be the beginning of a long healing process. Over the next year, Esther began to vocalize the constant shame, fear, worthlessness, and started to recount the details of her rape. SuStained is a healing project, not a coping mechanism. It was a way for her to feel so deeply the pain, to understand it at a deeper level. Esther is an artist, and the best way she knows how to heal is through art. To express the emotions that she felt. The fear. The stains that were left on her body and mind. She was scared out of her mind to share this vulnerable of a piece of her life with the world, but hopes that through it other women will feel the support and camaraderie of our sisters around us.

Audrey Johnston

Audrey first realized her love for photography in college, but hadn’t quite experienced its influential power until working on SuStained. Listening to the stories of each brave woman that sat in front of the camera was all at once heartbreaking and motivating for her. She realized more than ever how important it was to share these stories and how it has the power to create change. She hopes that by providing a platform for someone to speak out about their assault, it will give other women the courage to speak out about theirs. She believes healing can take place by sharing one story at a time.