Lydia Billings is a striking yet soft-spoken 23-year-old who is the founder of a photographic anti-rape project called "Trigger Warning." She was recently a featured speaker at the Women's Federation for World Peace National Assembly on Saturday, October 25 in Washington, D.C.
A photography major at the Roger Institute of Technology, she began her project in 2013 as a way to create an artistic space where survivors of rape can talk openly and intimately about their experiences. The project started as her response to her close friend being raped at another college.
"I was really angry and confused as to why this had happened to a dear friend, and I wanted to support her and comfort her, but I didn't know how," said Ms. Billings. After a couple of months, she got the inspiration to start her photography project, and with the support of her professors and peers she made this very personal project into a very public and open dialogue about sexual assault and its lasting effects.
She started by photographing places where assaults had been perpetrated in her neighborhood. From there she took portraits of survivors. Ms. Billings avoids re-victimizing her subjects by asking them to reveal only what they are ready to talk about. Her images convey that rape can happen to anyone, anywhere; that it is an issue that goes beyond race, age, and class. Her work has received positive support from the victims through their opening up and sharing about their experiences. Trigger Warning continues to support anti-rape activism. Ms. Billings says, "I think people engage with art. It's a lot more intimate and different than when people hear a lecture on rape."
When asked about her experience at WFWP's National Assembly she said, "It is really refreshing and empowering that there are other people, especially women, who are out there striving for peace, because it can sometimes be daunting being an activist. Peace is not something that is normally represented in our society."
Ms. Billings is currently trying to work with different anti-rape agencies and advocacy organizations, and is looking for ways to create artwork that can more convey the essence of rape and its effects on people. She speaks publicly on various university and college campuses throughout New York. She plans to visit more schools around the country, particularly in areas were rape is more prevalent.
Please visit her page: www.triggerwarningphoto.com.