Twenty-year-old Ali Miller was sexually assaulted in high school when a young man she considered a friend raped her while she was blacked out from drinking. At 17, she was grappling with depression and had found that alcohol helped her cope.
In the ensuing three years, Miller realized that she could not block out her rape. She started seeing a therapist and was diagnosed with PTSD. After a series of events that led to Miller's story being shared online, she was thrust into a community of survivors who offered her the support and love she lacked in the years following her sexual assault.
"So I thought to myself, what if everyone could do this?" she told A Plus in an email. "What if women could share their stories, the parts of their life that aren't the happy ones, the parts of themselves that they normally try to hide, what if I could create a platform for them to share who they are? Maybe they could feel this relief and liberation and love that I felt."
Thus her powerful photo series, I Am Movement, showing women reclaiming power through their past and their imperfections, was born.
I Am Movement shows women all of shapes, colors and backgrounds finding empowerment and connection with others by revealing their flaws and worst experiences.
The project isn't focused on sexual assault alone; women are photographed sharing mental illnesses, deep insecurities and personal struggles.
"We have all fought our own battles and we have won them. These battles cause scars, some hidden, some piercingly noticeable. These beautiful parts of a human — the weaknesses, the strengths, are all strung together to make up an identity. Who are you? Who does society think you are? We are quick to bring forward our best traits, the parts of us that are strong and undamaged," the website reads. "But what about our worst moments? Our darkest times? What if we all brought those into the light? What if we are all more alike than we think?"
The majority of women who have reached out to me in the past week are strangers, but all have said that they have seen a story or two that they can relate to, and they now feel comfortable sharing their story. It is a domino effect. Girls are realizing it is LIBERATING to share the pieces of their identity that have been kept in the darkness all of their lives. They are realizing that they are not alone in whatever fight they are fighting.
The project is a stark reminder of how challenging it can be to admit our deepest fears to ourselves, let alone share them with the world.
As a testament to how powerful its impact has been, I Am Movement has racked up more than 1,800 Instagram followers since launching in May. And Miller told Today that each day, anywhere from two to six women email her asking if they can participate.
Miller said she has big plans for her project, ideally traveling to different college campuses across the country with other women to share their stories and to spread the movement. "I have gotten a few emails from girls at UCLA and schools in Louisville asking me to come to their campus for a weekend and photograph anyone who wants to join the movement," Miller said, "but money is tight, I am a college kid after all!"