Through Our Own Eyes: The Alliance and NYC Teens Envision a City Without Sexual Violence

Photovoice participant Yesenia Miranda discusses her commissioned artwork with guest David Mattingly.

Through Our Own Eyes: Using Photovoice to Envision a City Without Sexual and Dating Violence was a participatory approach to engaging youth in identifying the social norms and environmental conditions in their everyday lives that contribute to teen dating and sexual violence. The participants were given the training and tools to look for solutions and envision a world where those conditions and norms no longer exist.


The goals of the Photovoice project:


  • To enable youth to record and reflect on conditions in their lives and communities, including strengths and challenges faced by teens.
  • To promote discussion and knowledge about teen sexual and dating violence through the use of photographs and accompanying text.
  • To reach policymakers with action plans for preventing sexual and dating violence.


Photovoice Workshops


The Youth Action Council (YAC) underwent five months of comprehensive training to learn participatory action research (PAR) methods so that they could examine the issue of sexual and dating violence with their peers. In May 2009, these youth leaders conducted a three-day workshop with 31 youth participants, to explore:

  • What is sexual and dating violence?
  • What causes sexual and dating violence?
  • How do we end sexual and dating violence?


With the help of a professional photographer, participants learned how to utilize digital cameras to represent the conditions in their communities that promote violence, as well as to capture their personal vision of a world free from sexual and dating violence. The youth worked in teams to capture their ideas in photographs and to develop descriptive essays, or vignettes, that help provide context and meaning for the viewer.


Photovoice participants represented youth-serving community-based organizations throughout the city:


Las Jovenes (of Voces Latinas)
Young Women of Color HIV/AIDS Coalition
South Bronx Job Corps
Satellite Academy



Analysis & Action


The YAC leaders worked together to analyze the findings from the peer workshops. They looked for major themes that emerged from the facilitated discussions and and then selected photographs and vignettes that best exemplified the findings.


With an emphasis on action, YAC leaders explored ways in which to implement the prevention strategies developed at the workshop.



Exhibition & Dissemination


On the evening of April 29th close to 100 people attended the first Through Our Own Eyes: Using Photovoice to Envision a City Without Sexual and Dating Violence photography exhibit by New York City youth who participated in the Alliance’s comprehensive anti-sexual violence training program. Made possible in part by a generous grant from the New York City Council, and hosted at the 6th Street Community Center, the group show was free to the public and featured powerful images and essays on teen violence, and the converse, healthy relationships in “a city free of sexual violence.”


The exhibit was curated by NYC photographer Stacie Joy, with assistance from Alliance staff, Board members, volunteers and community advocates. The evening event drew youth, families, friends, service providers, policymakers and activists. After viewing the artwork, many of the guests entered into animated discussions about the significance of what they had seen and the need for prevention and intervention programs to combat this citywide epidemic.


“The opportunity which the Alliance had to highlight its amazing work with youth around issues of sexual violence at the Through Our Own Eyes event was a huge success,” noted former Alliance Fundraising Committee member Liliana Blanco. “It was also extremely powerful to see the world of sexual violence and its root causes interpreted through
the lens of young people—literally.”