For years, the people of Goma, a city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, witnessed horrific war crimes as sexual violence against children, women, and sometimes men was used as weapon of war. As an increasing number of local initiatives and international programs were developing to help survivors of war-time domestic abuse and sexual violence re-integrate into society and regain control of their lives, photographer Patricia Willocq, who was born and raised in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, decided to do her part. She created the photography series described below to bring light to this important issue. The aim of the series is to “empower children born of rape and survivors of sexual violence”, says Willocq.

“In this series of pictures called ‘Look At Me, I Am Beautiful,’ you’ll get a glimpse into the life of Esther, a little girl born of rape as she experiences all the major milestones of life: birth, first steps, the first day at school, a wedding, etc. Esther is always featured at the center of image, where she is surrounded by men who support her and protect her.”

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“All the children in the photoset are born of rape; all the women have been involved in sexual abuse. No longer victims in these images, they are rather beautiful survivors – women who want the world to view them as such.”

This project was born to support HOLD DRC!  Feel free to contact them to see how you can get involved. The project was awarded at the Alfred Fried Photography Award 2015  for the world’s best picture on the theme of peace.

See all images with captions @Patricia Willocq Photography