About the Founder
Founder: Eliina Belenkiy
Regain Your Voice initially began as a project Eliina undertook during her undergraduate studies in San Francisco, CA. A survivor herself, she interviewed and photographed survivors of sexual assault compiling an incredible portfolio of strength and inspiration for other victims to regain their voices. In addition to stripping the shame and self-blame from those victimized, Eliina also hoped to raise awareness within the community that sexual violence is not someone else’s problem – it can happen to any of us.
At the age of fourteen, Eliina was sexually assaulted by an internet predator. She worked with the local police department and with the FBI to aid in the arrest of her attacker. Three years after the assault she had the opportunity to testify against him in Federal Court and see him be taken away in handcuffs to Federal Prison. In struggling with life after the trial Eliina turned to photography as a way of expression and healing. After graduating high school she attended The Academy of Art University where Regain Your Voice was born. In 2004 Eliina found volunteers for her project who were willing to be photographed and to share their stories of sexual assault and childhood abuse. The project soon after was on display in Universities and in art galleries all over the state, raising awareness and giving other survivors the courage they needed to also share their stories, to regain their voice that was once lost. Eliina has also volunteered with many organizations to promote sexual assault awareness including being a RAINN Speakers Bureau Member and has shared her story to numerous media outlets by appearing on national television and telling her story to magazines, speaking out on the radio as well as submitting testimonies to Congress to help change current legislation for survivors.
Eliina also speaks throughout the Metropolitan DC area and across the country, on the topic of sexual violence. Eliina has spoken on TV and been featured in the newspaper and magazines as well as the radio. Contact Eliina to speak at your event.
Interviews and Advocacy that Eliina has participated in:
July 2011 - Eliina was interviewed by the Associated Press
Eliina spoke with Marie Claire Magazine about Rape Kits
Marie Claire Magazine
Eliina's Testimonies Submitted to Congress
- Testimony to Congress October 2009 - IMPROVING ASSISTANCE TO DOMESTIC AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE VICTIMS ACT OF 2009
- Testimony to Congress June 2009 On The Continued Importance of The Violence Against Women Act
Eliina Spoke on the Radio 11/2009
KPFK in Los Angeles regarding the Roman Polanski Trial
Eliina appeared on The Dr. Keith Ablow Show in 2006 to raise awareness of Internet Dangers.
Regain Your Voice: The Project
"I hope this project makes Survivors of Sexual Assault feel like they are in control again; these are all powerful, strong and intelligent men and women. I just want to give their voices back. I had a voice, but it wasn't heard; now it will be." - Eliina
I have learned that rape is something whispered about, or talked about from behind closed doors. This is a major problem. If people are not aware of what can happened to them they can never be prepared for when it does, like myself, I never even thought I could be raped. I was not aware that it could happen to me. The second problem is that a lot of people only believe that a stereotypical rape happens with college students at a party when someone drops a date rape drug into their drink. We were not taught to believe any different. It was only after group therapy that I realized, anyone can be raped and anyone can be the perpetrator. I had soon learned that it might not be only a stranger, but more statically correct, someone that you know. I met people that had been sexually assaulted by their fathers, uncles and brothers. The list was endless. I also learned that it can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any age. My project is about standing up to show that this is a major problem. Most rapists actually pride themselves and take advantage of the fact that they do not think we will tell or stand up to speak for ourselves, I refuse to be a quiet victim any longer, it is time to fight. I believe in photography making a social change and this is a way that I can incorporate my passion of photography with my strong belief of helping other people. As survivors of this vicious crime we can not hide anymore, in the shadows of guilt and shame. We need to unite, stand up together and show America that this is a problem.
Regain Your Voice Project
Regain Your Voice Project on Display at John F. Kennedy University in San Jose, CA and at Santa Cruz City Hall, CA
For more about the founder visit: www.eliinabelenkiy.com