#NoTouchy photo project shares stories of sexual assault

It's a difficult thing to talk about, so models in Saskatoon have posed for pictures to help raise awareness about sexual assault.

"Not only is it showcasing survivors, but showcasing people who flourished afterwards," Kealy Cheyenne Heeg, an ambassador with Infinity Models Saskatoon, said of the project.

The photo series came about as Heeg began doing public speaking engagements, addressing the prevalence of sexual assault in the modelling industry.

It was during those engagements that Heeg met someone who introduced her to the creator of the #NoTouchy Campaign. They teamed up to try to do something that would impact more people.

"I can go and talk to a group of models and tell my story, but there's so many other people who are not in the industry who are really affected by this," Heeg said.

She said she reached out to the 85 models at her agency, looking for victims who would be comfortable coming forward and sharing their stories.

There were 25 people who responded to her request.

Ultimately, 10 models were able to take part in the photos — some of which share messages of empowerment, and some of which revisit the experiences of the people in the photos.

"So some of the models actually re-enact similar scenarios to what they personally experienced. And then some actually re-enacted each other's."

For Heeg's own photos, she chose a setting that would represent the two assaults she experienced — being drugged and raped at a party when she was 16, and also being taken advantage of by an ex-boyfriend who spotted her at a bar.

"I hope that people see their sister or their mother or maybe even themselves," Heeg said of the photos.

"Yes, horrible things have happened to them, but also identify that victims have faces, names, that we're real people."

Since sharing the photos online, Heeg said hundreds of people have come forward wanting to help, some even donating to the #NoTouchy Campaign, which aims to ensure that victims have the supports they need and that hospitals have rape kits, and also lobbies governments for stronger penalties and longer sentences for convicted sexual offenders.

Heeg said she has also heard from other victims who, after seeing the photos, wanted to find help.