The most effective, lasting changes in public policy occur when public attitudes shift as well. Our advocacy campaigns are created to connect the stories of survivors to very real demands for more effective – and compassionate – public policies. Because the personal is what the political should be all about.
On any given day, over 16,000 women and girls are prostituted or trafficked in the greater Chicago area. The vast majority of these women entered the sex trade after fleeing abusive homes, often while still in their teens. The average age of death for a prostituted person? A heartbreaking 34 years old. These are just a few of the facts that prompted The Voices and Faces Project to create "The Ugly Truth," an End Demand Illinois (EDI) public service and advocacy campaign. Through an Illinois focused new and traditional media buy, "The Ugly Truth" seeks to raise awareness of the damage done to women who are trafficked or prostituted, while calling the public to clear and measurable action on their behalf. Created through a dialogue with our partners at the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, who are currently working to pass critical anti-sexual exploitation legislation in Springfield, "The Ugly Truth" seeks to create a measurable change in public attitudes about trafficking and prostitution in Illinois, and serves as a model for coordinated policy and media efforts in other states.
In 2009, Voices and Faces Project photographer Patricia Evans and writer Anne K. Ream traveled to Mexico, where they interviewed the Women of Atenco, victims of rape and torture at the hands of Mexican police, with the end goal of creating an on and offline series of stories that could be linked to demands for changed policies in Mexico. The Atenco case has been a high-priority for our allies at Amnesty International, and the failure of the Mexican government to hold police accountable has been condemned by members of the United States Congress, the United Nations, and the international human rights community. The willingness of the women to speak truth to power and perpetrators is inspiring, humbling and a reminder of how a small community of activists can challenge and change the world. Join The Voices and Faces Project and the Nobel Women's Initiative in demanding justice for the women of Atenco.
Listen to the WBEZ/Public Radio piece about our Voices and Faces Project work documenting the stories of the women of Atenco.
Does a rapist deserve a military burial? The Voices and Faces Project, End Violence Against Women International, and the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) don't think so—and that's why we are advocating for a change in US policy through our efforts to pass "Jenny's Law."
Voices and Faces Project member Jenny Bush had just graduated from college when she became one of the victims of James Allen Selby, an armed serial rapist who had broken into her home. Jenny had the courage to report the crime to police — and the conviction to pursue legal justice. Following a nationwide manhunt, Selby was apprehended and accused of attacking Jenny and at least 10 others, including a 9-year-old girl. In October 2004, he was convicted on 27 counts. Just hours before facing sentencing, he hung himself in a Tucson jail. To the shock of the victims and their families, Selby – who was a Persian Gulf War veteran – was then buried with full military honors. Jenny's Dad Steve, himself a veteran, was angry. "When I first learned that the man who raped my daughter would be honored in this way, I was shocked. It was such an affront to victims, and to good and honorable veterans. Our family's shock turned to resolve pretty quickly. It was a catalyst for us to get involved to change things."
Today, Jenny and Steve Bush – along with RAINN, The Voices and Faces Project and EVAW – are working for a change in policy so that perpetrators like James Allen Selby are ineligible for honors burials. "Jenny's Law," which is being sponsored by CA Senator Barbara Boxer in the US Senate, will make such change possible. To find out more about the current status of Jenny's Law, email firstname.lastname@example.org
To read the Los Angeles Times opinion essay about our fight for Jenny's Law, written by Voices and Faces Project founder Anne Ream, visit:
In a world that too often ignores the scope and scale of sexual violence and trafficking, a single story can sometimes be one of our most effective tools for creating change. In that spirit, The Voices and Faces Project partnered with the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, the voice in Washington for those working to end sexual violence, to secure the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). VAWA will provide new resources for victims of crime, while expanding current rape prevention and education programs. By helping the alliance identify sexual violence survivors willing to share their stories in service to social change, and creating a series of online survivor portraits that speak to the need for services and support that are government funded, The Voices and Faces Project seeks to remind those in Washington that the political is also deeply personal.
In the words of Terri Poore, Vice President of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence: "These Voices and Faces Project survivor stories have been an essential tool as we've worked on the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. They help us to communicate urgency to policy makers, breaking through our collective numbness. After 20 years of doing this work, survivor stories like this re-invigorate me to continue pressing forward for justice." We are grateful to Voices and Faces Project members Missy Carson, Jenny Bush, Nobuko Nagaoka, Gabe Wright, Sasha Walters, and Michelle Lugalia, for sharing their stories in order to create change.