Meet the student who is challenging rape culture with her photo series
Yana Mazurkevich is capturing the harsh reality behind victim-blaming
by Sharon Mejia
The Brock Turner case earlier this month depicted the harsh reality sexual assault victims generally face from the public – they are blamed. When women come forward about their abuse, they are usually asked what they were wearing or if they were intoxicated at the time of their assault.
Yana Mazurkevich, an Ithaca College junior, recently challenged this notion of victim-blaming with her powerful photos and so far, they have gone viral.
As the in-house artist featured at Current Solutions, a student-run project dedicated to spreading awareness about gender-based violence, Yana created a photo project featuring women challenging victim-blaming statements.
The student platform serves as a place for people to safely share their stories, to enter the conversation and safely speak out about these widespread issues in an unfiltered way.
We spoke with Mazurkevich on her photo series that has gone viral on many platforms, and how it aims to empower women to share their stories and not be afraid to speak up.
Tell me about how you started this series from scratch and what inspired your photography?
The process behind the photos was a mix of aspects that I thought would bring attention to the subject. I wanted to photograph the subject’s “gaze,” which is the most eye-catching aspect in any photograph. It immediately confronts the viewer and draws you to look for an expression, although I aimed to capture absolutely none because when an assault happens, not only do you feel a thousand emotions, you also feel absolutely nothing.
I did have other people stand on the sides of the subject and throw color powder on my command. I believe this is a representation of how you never know when or from what direction something can happen to you. I aim to have my series tell the truth of pain behind the struggles that rape and sexual assault victims have to face on a daily basis.
Considering the Brock Turner Case, what kind of message are you hoping to spread with your photography series to society?
Many rape cases are ended with even less than what Brock Turner has been given. That is absolutely unjust. I strongly believe that you deserve to face the consequences of your actions. I am an individual who has experienced sexual assault, and these verdicts make me feel not only unsafe in my daily life, but also guilty for not being living reason enough to bring a harmful person to justice. No victim should ever feel guilty.
Have you or someone you know ever experienced something like this? How did you get through that situation?
I, and many of my close friends, have experienced sexual assault/harassment. Though I was shocked by my personal experience at first, I knew after it had occurred that I shouldn’t feel sorry or ashamed whatsoever. I also knew that experiences such as these should be used to bring awareness. I wasn’t going to hide away and not share this reality because it’s controversial or makes people uncomfortable. These things happen and I’m not afraid to show people the aftermath.
Anything else you would like to share about yourself as a college student, young woman, and photographer?
As a young woman in college, I am forced to adhere to being careful with how I dress, act, and walk on and off campus when, in reality, I should not have to worry. Every woman deserves the right, not the privilege, to wear what she wants and walk home when she chooses. That’s what I’m here to change with Current Solutions.