Photo Series Shows The Extreme Lengths Women Go To In Order To Protect Themselves From Rape

From a young age, women are taught to be vigilant of attacks and sexual assault. And there are solid grounds for this fear, if the daily news reports of rape and abuse are anything to go by.

In an effort to protect themselves, women have resorted to arming themselves with all manner of defensive ‘weapons’.


Images by Taylor Yocom

Many women wouldn’t dream of leaving their homes without these objects.


Images by Taylor Yocom

Taylor Yocom was no different. Faced with a constant stream of reports of sexual assault in her community, the 22-year-old and her classmates discussed how they protect themselves from attack. One by one they pulled out small bottles of mace and rape whistles, laying everything on the table.

Not one woman was fazed by the display of armaments in front of them…


Images by Taylor Yocom

…The men, however, were a different story. They were shocked.


Images by Taylor Yocom

“They didn’t even have to think of having these objects,” Yocom said.


Images by Taylor Yocom

The stark difference between male and female vulnerability hit Yocom in that instant.


Images by Taylor Yocom

This was the inspiration for her photo project entitled “Guarded,” where she photographed women holding up items that made them feel most safe when walking alone.


Images by Taylor Yocom

More than objects that can inflict pain, Yocom believes the items that the subjects are holding represent a “larger reality of victim blaming”.


Images by Taylor Yocom

More than tools for protection, they are a “physical manifestation of the realities that women have to face every day”.


Images by Taylor Yocom

“These loaded objects on key chains where trinkets should be really do portray how women are expected to always be on guard to protect themselves… when the rapists should not be raping,” she said.


Images by Taylor Yocom

Yocom said: “I hope to expand the viewers’ mindset: to rethink the statistics about rape and assault, to visualize that ONE in FOUR women are assaulted in their lifetime, as a personal reality not a meaningless number.”


Images by Taylor Yocom

As these photos show, we continue to live in a society plagued by rape culture and victim blaming, where there is a real necessity to be “on guard” at all times.

Perhaps the strongest message of these photos is that this onus of responsibility and fear should be shifted away from the shoulders of women, and onto the perpetrators of these crimes and their sympathisers. If we want to change our tomorrow, today would be a good place to start.

You can view more of Yocom’s project on her website.