Isaac Newton’s third law of physics states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. When someone walks down the street, they push off the ground with their feet and the ground pushes back with equal force, allowing them to keep moving forward. Walking is of course impossible to do without a ground to walk on.

Thought of conceptually, Newton’s third law is relevant to human interactions as well. When someone does or says something to us, we react. Sometimes the thing done to us was so significant that our community reacts with us. The way we treat others reverberates through communities. I call this “The Ripple Effect.”

I believe everyone has experienced The Ripple Effect, either because their actions strongly affected someone or they have been strongly affected by the actions of someone else.

When I was seven, my stepdad began molesting me and told me to keep it a secret from everyone. This continued for four years. Long before I told anyone the secret, my reaction to my stepdad’s actions was internal. My inner dialogue grew louder and louder until my dad noticed a strange comment I made about my stepdad. His observation was the precursor to a series of dramatic events. Chaos began the moment I told my mom what my stepdad had done.

Many things happened at once: my mom and I fled our house and took refuge with a friend; my stepdad had a heart attack and died; our whole community found out that I’d been abused; people called my stepdad a monster, my mom an oblivious trophy wife, and me a slut who was doomed to a sad future. My stepdad’s actions caused an uproar; an equal and opposite reaction took place. The whole community got involved and the effects of what had happened to me reverberated into the world. The Ripple Effect had begun, and it continues today.

Each image in this series is a self-portrait, and I’ve written phrases on all of them. The words are meant to look childish, as if I had written them as my seven-year-old self. Each photograph is another piece of my story. The phrases in quotes are things different people said in reaction to what my stepdad had done; phrases that aren’t in quotes are pieces of writing I took from one of my old journals or something I remember thinking or saying while I was being abused.

I created this body of work to heal my wounds, but it’s also a letter to you, viewer. I know that at some point in your life, someone has hurt you, and you have probably hurt someone else. Our actions create a Ripple Effect. The way you move through this world is up to you, but your choices will affect others. How do you want to affect the world?

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