May 6, 2021

Graphic sexual assault photo series forces you to see the victim

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https-blueprint-api-production-s3-amazonaws-com-uploads-card-image-204911-it_happens_yana_mazurkevich04 https-blueprint-api-production-s3-amazonaws-com-uploads-card-image-204907-it_happens_yana_mazurkevich02 https-blueprint-api-production-s3-amazonaws-com-uploads-card-image-204909-it_happens_yana_mazurkevich03 https-blueprint-api-production-s3-amazonaws-com-uploads-card-image-204913-it_happens_yana_mazurkevich05 https-blueprint-api-production-s3-amazonaws-com-uploads-card-image-204916-it_happens_yana_mazurkevich07 https-blueprint-api-production-s3-amazonaws-com-uploads-card-image-204918-it_happens_yana_mazurkevich08 https-blueprint-api-production-s3-amazonaws-com-uploads-card-image-204922-it_happens_yana_mazurkevich09Warning: The attached photos contain graphic depictions of sexual violence.

On Friday (Sept. 9), photographer and college student Yana Mazurkevich marked Brock Turner’s release from jail by publishing a photo series on sexual assault entitled “It Happens.”

The nine disturbing images, which show men and women being assaulted, or during the aftermath of an attack, have since been shared widely.

Mazurkevich, who says she was sexually assaulted by an acquaintance a few years ago, wanted the series to vividly demonstrate what sexual violence can look like.

“You’re forced to look at the subject and put the pieces together.”
“The whole thing behind the series is you have a subject making gaze with the viewer,” she says. “You’re forced to look at the subject and put the pieces together: Why is the subject looking at me? Why are they looking so lifeless? Maybe they were threatened or intoxicated. Maybe they’re looking at you for help.”

Each photo is paired with anonymous quotes collected from survivors by Current Solutions, a platform that raises awareness about gender inequality and originally published “It Happens.” The models who appear in the images are not the survivors quoted.

While Mazurkevich had been working on the series for a photography class earlier this year, she says the minimal sentence former Stanford student Turner received in June for sexually assaulting a woman in 2015, and his recent early release from jail, prompted her to finish the project quickly with a new focus.

In an effort to show how sexual assault can happen to anyone, at anytime, she included a male victim and female perpetrator, and portrayed different settings, like a locker room, workplace and public bathroom. One image of a woman lying on the ground is meant to evoke the scene of Turner’s assault; the unconscious victim in the case was found behind a dumpster.

The survivors’ quotes hint at assaults that took place at home, a party, after prom and even during the process of getting a tattoo. RAINN, an anti-sexual violence organization that tracks statistics, says that three out of four rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.

“The images speak for themselves, but I also knew I wanted to share personal stories, and to show diversity in the fact that there are so many experiences,” says Mazurkevich.

Public response to the project, she adds, has been mostly positive. Mazurkevich says she’s received messages from survivors who haven’t spoken of their assault to anyone for years or decades.

Some survivors, however, have been critical of the “triggering” images, which they’ve encountered without warning in some cases. Mazurkevich says that wasn’t her intention, but believes the series has sparked an important conversation. As she fields skeptical comments from people who insist the victims appear to be having a good time or are just bored, Mazurkevich has taken the opportunity to dispel myths about how rape is supposed to look.

“Those who have never experienced sexual assault probably can’t empathize with the images,” she says. “And those who do empathize, probably know people who’ve been through it.”


If you have experienced sexual assault, you can call the free, confidential National Sexual Assault hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), or access 24-7 help online by visiting

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