In the era of hashtag activism like the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, it’s easy to flit from one cause to another without depth or impact. And then there’s incredibly, madly, painfully committed work like Mariella Furrer’s. For more than ten years, she has worked on one topic alone: child sexual abuse. An exploration that started with a magazine assignment had brought her to South Africa from her home in Kenya and quickly turned into an obsession. She was not just reporting on abuse: she had been abused herself as a child, and as the project became a catharsis for her, she hoped it would inspire hundreds of others to break their silence and start to heal. Twelve years after taking the first photographs, she is self-publishing “My Piece of Sky”, a 700-page study into an issue that plagues countries around the world. In addition to photographs, the book presents in-depth interviews, artwork and poetry from victims of child sexual abuse, examining its impact on survivors and their families, as well as child services professionals, police and prosecutors. Furrer even spent time with perpetrators. She spoke to R&K while promoting the book in the US.
Roads & Kingdoms: How did you find the strength to explore such a difficult issue for over a decade?
Mariella Furrer: Well, I just kept busy. I was working with the police so I was busy most of the time. It’s only really when I had time to sit that I struggled a lot. Some of the interviews and some of the things I saw, many things impacted me, and there were times where I would lie on my floor and think, I cannot do this anymore, I’ve just got to stop it. But there’s a sense of obligation to myself, to the people who shared their stories with me or allowed me into their lives, and to the millions of others who have not spoken out about their abuse, to tell the story and help people break the silence because in breaking the silence, we are starting to heal.