FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA)– Northwest Arkansas is seeing a trend of sexual assault survivors coming forward.
One Fayetteville couple is taking their first-hand knowledge of sexual assault and using it as a weapon to protect others.
“I’ve had multiple experiences with varying degrees of sexual assault and a lot of it started when I had my first job just working at a gym,” said Emily Blomquist, the co-founder of Break the Line Project.
A survivor of sexual assault, Blomquist sets out to stop other young adults from being dealt the same fate.
“There’s a line of events that lead up to these actions. Maybe someone makes an inappropriate
comment, they have a history of telling jokes that contribute to this culture, and we each have a responsibility to step up and break that line,” said Eric Small, the other co-founder of the project.
The “Break the Line Project” was created to give a voice to sexual assault survivors–a campaign created to spread awareness of what’s happening to the people we love.
“Every single one of us knows someone,” said Anne Shelley, the executive director of the NWA Center for Sexual Assault. “If we ourselves aren’t survivors, we know someone who is.”
Shelley states that one in six men and one and three women have either been sexually assaulted or harassed in their life.
This Fayetteville couple takes photos of these victims, with their permission, and tells their story.
“The response that we got was way beyond anything we could have ever imagined,” Small said.
But, it’s the more about the story behind the lens.
He said, “There is something therapeutic to being heard. Especially about something they feel they have to keep to themselves. Or, they don’t have anyone that will listen to them.”
“We have to turn that conversation to ‘I believe you, I support you, we’re here for you, and you are absolutely not alone,'” said Shelley.
The co-founders of this project and the Center for Sexual Assault both aim to turn the conversation into action, with the center providing things like rape kits for victims and the founders holding people accountable for their actions.
Small said, “A lot of times we just keep our mouths shut because maybe what’s happening in that moment doesn’t seem so bad. But it’s those attitudes and those ideas that lead to assault and abuse and harassment and those are the things that we can eradicate day by day in our own lives.”