heroines in hebrew


 One of the things that we have become accustomed to in Western society is the perception of women as sex objects. This phenomenon occurs by ongoing objectifying and provocative representations of women in various cultural fields such as art, cinema, literature, advertisements and billboards.

The fact that public sphere – the place which allows us to shape our opinions through cultural and social interactions – has become dominated by sexist representations of women contributes to the growing numbers of sexual violence against women. The phenomenon of sexual violence against women has become so common that is now a constant part of our everyday life.

The exhibition “Heroines” aims to change this situation on multiple levels:

1. It creates a dignifying representation of women as whole human beings and not as sex objects;

2. It goes against the social blindness to the phenomenon of sexual violence by presenting the enlarged portraits of women who have had experienced sexual assault. These portraits do not allow us to continue and ignore the phenomenon of sexual violence – as it is a reminder of the fact that one of three women is sexually abused, one of four women is raped, one of six women experience incest;

3. In a reality where women, who had been sexually abused, remain hidden, there is no name or face that can make the public identify with the victim. The exhibition enables us to focus on the women and identify with them.

The collection of portraits enables the audience to finally relate a name and a face to what has remained beforehand blared and unknown.

Finally, the exhibition creates a journey that leads to the understanding that the victim is innocent and that it can be any woman that we know – from anywhere and at any age. It can be a neighbor, the woman carrying baskets at the market, the woman sitting opposite you on the bus.

The exhibition challenges the perception that the victim of sexual assault is the one that should be ashamed and guilty for her experience, so that the need to conceal is no longer part of the trauma.

The exhibition allows the opportunity for the victim to deal with the silence that is forced by our society; as for the viewer, the inability to turn a blind eye, to deny or suppress the phenomenon of sexual violence against women works to create social amendment.  For women who experienced sexual abuse, to be able  to root in the understanding that that they are not alone in their experience and to convey the important message that what seems to be private is in fact a public phenomenon.

Photography has been an art domain where women first successfully challenged a world dominated by men. The ability to tell a different story, to reflect upon life from a feminine view has been associated with this relatively new form of art from the start. Alicia Shaaf’s camera works to reveal what has previously remained hidden. The photos she took are daring in their humanity and in the concealed stories and worlds they present to their viewers.


The project:

Alicia Shahaf, a volunteer at The Rape Crisis Centre HaSharon. Through her volunteering at the center, from the awareness that many women keep their secret for years, and from the comprehension that sexual assault continues to hurt even years after it happened, Alicia initiated a project which enabled women to break the conspiracy of silence without shame.

The women responded to Alicia’s advertisement. The first stage was an introductory meeting between the photographer and the woman, followed by a photography session in the studio. Alicia shot direct and intimate portraits which portrayed each individual and unique woman without masks; the photographed ‘heroines’ who’s identity and appearance are revealed look directly into the viewer’s eyes and don’t allow him to escape to the comfortable refuge of a blurred identity and abstract assault.

The meaning of the word RAPE in Latin is to steal. During sexual assault, the sexual criminal steals the victim’s body, soul and trust while humiliating her. The weapon is sex. The offender knows that the victim will remain silent because sexuality is a social taboo.

A woman who has survived the sexual crime is likened to a soldier returning from the battlefield of society. She isn’t a private incident. Society has a significant role in unraveling the conspiracy of silence surrounding everything connected with sex crimes. We must face the manifestation of sexual violence and understand that the silence stems from society’s lack of trust and casting blame on the victim. Society’s lack of trust is repeated humiliation of the victims.

Society frequently holds a field trial for sexual crime victims. People tend to turn the spotlight on the victim: they ask her questions, are suspicious of her answers, doubt her credibility and divert the blame on to her. Society doesn’t choose to wonder about the assailant’s behavior, to ask fundamental questions about the social reasons which caused his behavior, was there consent. At the same time, people search for character witnesses for the perpetrators virtues and those of his family.

Anyone who has endured sexual assault is a hero who has survived sexual terror. In the same way that society carries the soldier who returns from battle on its shoulders, so should we, as a society, look the victims of sexual assault in the eye and say “WE BELIEVE”!

We have the ability to put an end to sexual violence. The change begins with knowledge. Look in front of you. One in every six women will undergo incest, one in every four women will undergo rape, one in every three women will undergo other types of sexual harm and one in every five men will undergo sexual assault.

The Heroines Project is intended to tell the whole of society: we have been there, we survived the battlefield of society, we are looking you in the eye, we are not guilty, we will not let society steal our bodies and souls once again.


Alicia Shahaf is a graduate (1995) of the Camera Obscura school of art (Tel Aviv, Israel), and works as an independent artist and photographer. She also teaches photography and digital media, writes about photography and art in her blog (draft.co.il/blog/).  In her photographs she focuses on women, mainly shooting portraits, as in her project The Israelies done for the Ma’ariv newspaper.


The project includes twenty five portraits of women taken as part of this project.

Alicia Shahaf

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Alicia Shahaf

Photography  Exhibition

Sponsored by the Rape crisis center Ha’sharon, Israel

Einav Center

Opening on Friday, 24/02/2012 at 12:30

The exhibition will run until 3/13/2012

The exhibit is open to the public Sunday – Thursday 09:00 to 15:00

“… The media provide the women who were raped only one letter and pixeled face.

Their  names, their faces and their stories remain cooped behind closed doors, where they face alone with life after the rape. While they are still hiding, they serve the needs of society: to be not seen.

Alicia Shahaf came to these women with open arms wide. She offered them a new and revolutionary narrative: a story of courage and strength.

She called them “heroines”. When they choose to pose for her, they choose this title as well, and they could tell a new story for themselves. When they stand by the camera, they say the society  that they no longer need a reason  to hide.

These photographs are challenging us all to look into their eyes, and see them as they are. Survivors of the war for thousands of years deserted dark streets lit homes, children’s rooms and workplaces. See them as they are: heroines.

For which this story has enormous power to heal and give strength. Whereas for us, for society as a whole, this is a necessary courage … ”

Roni Gelbfish (from the exhibition catalog)

Alicia Shahaf