The Weapon of Choice Project was conceived to provide a visual demonstration of the power of verbal abuse, and it is meant to provoke a conversation about the problems of domestic violence, child abuse, and bullying.
The idea behind the Weapon of Choice Project was to create a visual representation of the emotional damage words can do. World-class professional makeup artists generously donated their time to the project. The artists applied makeup to each participant to simulate an injury, and the hurtful word chosen by the participant was then incorporated.
We chose the name “Weapon of Choice” for this project because, for the abuser, using words to harm is a choice. While listening to the stories from participants who had suffered abuse, we discovered how closely physical abuse followed verbal abuse. Where we found evidence of one, we found evidence of the other. When the abuser chose to inflict harm, verbal abuse was just one of the weapons in the arsenal.
We presented each participant in the Weapon of Choice Project with a list of hurtful words, and we asked them to choose a word that had significance to them (some volunteered words we didn’t think of). At first, they were just words on list. But as each participant chose a word -- the word that would be painted on their body and captured in a photograph -- the words took on much more significance.
The Weapon of Choice Project was not meant to be, exclusively, an anti-bullying campaign. Nonetheless, many of the children who participated in the project had been affected by bullying, and they told us about their experiences. Some of their stories surprised not only our project crew, but also the children’s parents, who in some cases had never heard about the experiences the children recalled. Some of us on the crew came to this project with a “sticks and stones” attitude about bullying, but after this experience, we’ve all come to recognize how hurtful and damaging bullying can really be.
You’ll discover as you explore the photographs in this project that there were very powerful words on our list, yet for the younger children who participated, the word they identified as the worst word, the word they were shy to say aloud -- the word they only dared to whisper -- was “stupid.” This surprised us, and it serves as good lesson that you never know what words may have the most devastating impact on children.
We discovered that much of the verbal abuse directed at women and teen-aged girls was sexual in nature. “Slut” was a word that far too many participants had encountered. “Slut” is more than a hurtful word, it is an accusation. It is meant not just to demean but also to ruin a reputation. Often it is a betrayal of trust. Just as verbal abuse if often closely tied to physical abuse, verbal abuse with sexual connotations can be closely tied to sexual abuse -- ranging from internet revenge porn to sexual extortion to sexual battery. Stories involving this type of verbal abuse were often the most difficult for participants to tell.
All of the participants were made aware of the goals of the project, and many had a personal experiences that contributed to their willingness to give their time and their likeliness to the project. All minors were represented by a legal guardian. These photos are meant for you to share with your social to raise awareness for issues associated with verbal abuse. If you use one of these images in a blog or other online publication, you must provide a link to the hurtwords.com webiste. If you are involved in a non-profit or charity that serves the victims of child abuse, domestic violence, bullying, or any other form of verbal abuse, you may use these images for free (in print or online) if you first contact us for permission and obtain the proper release forms. Members of the press can request a press package which includes high-resolution photos and release forms.