NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - A new photography project gives us a glimpse of the complex healing journey of sexual assault survivors.
They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, but for Eric Paull, some of those words can represent harrowing memories.
"Five, six years old, the abuse started," Paull said.
Paull was abused at a young age and turned to the Sexual Assault Center in Nashville later in life to help start his healing journey through its programs and counseling.
"The first step is awareness," Paull said. "It's hard for people to talk about it, and that's why it's hard for them to do the work because it involves a lot."
It's that work Paull, and fellow survivors are hoping to inspire others to begin through documentary photographer Dan Heller's new project.
"People don't want to be constantly defined by that one event in their lives," Heller said. "They are whole people that are in the process of repairing parts of themselves."
The focus of the "SEEN: Survivors" project is to represent the complex healing journey. It shows where each survivor is today and how far they've come, as they wanted to express it.
"I was very taken aback at times when people wanted to be photographed at the location of their assault," Heller said. "I think to show that they are staring the dragon in the face, and they have slayed the dragon. They own their bodies, they on their environment the place where they are at, and there's a very powerful sense of self-containment when you can do that."
The project photographed Paull as a little boy. The picture is shown torn to pieces, now pieced back together through Paull's decades of hard work.
"It was heartwarming sort of bringing the little boy back into the fold and seeing the picture and seeing the scars and realizing that that's who I am and the pictures never going to go back together the way it was. But because of where I am and what I worked through, I'm just like a broken bone. I'm so much stronger because of it," Paull said.
The SEEN project will launch during SAC's biggest fundraiser, the Mad Hatter, on Saturday, Oct. 23. The event is virtual. News4's Brittany Weiner is the emcee.
You can sign up for the Mad Hatter and learn more about SEEN by clicking here.