As a 13-year sexual assault survivor and boudoir photographer, I know firsthand that healing from trauma isn’t linear. But healing is possible and can even be empowering through artistic expression.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and in honor of it, this blog is dedicated to all of the survivors. It’s a sensitive topic, but one I care about deeply. 

I’m going to get really vulnerable in this post by sharing part of my survivor story with you. But I’m also sharing how boudoir photography helps sexual assault survivors. It gives them power to transform a traumatic experience into love, self-compassion, and empowerment.

But first, let’s briefly talk about the statistics.

boudoir photography in arkansas portrait studio
boudoir photography of woman in arkansas boudoir studio in black lingerie posing next to floor length mirror

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Understanding the Statistics

One in five women in the United States experience completed or attempted rape during their lifetime. ONE IN FIVE WOMEN.

That number is insane - and that’s just for the women. We know assault happens to men too. These statistics are alarming, to say the least. So if I can use my platform to bring awareness and prevention, I’m here for it.

But beyond the statistics, I use my personal experience to help other survivors navigate healing. So I’ll explain that next.

Boudoir Photography as a Healing Modality for Survivors

You might be wondering how the hell half-naked photos can help a woman heal from sexual assault. Valid question.

When someone experiences sexual abuse, they can feel like their body is no longer their own. Boudoir photography allows them to take back the control they feel they lost and begin to feel empowered!

In fact, I’m the perfect example of a survivor who used boudoir photography as a healing modality.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m a 13-year sexual assault survivor. After I had my son, which was years after my sexual assault, I had some soul-searching to do. I began experimenting with self portraits to find compassion toward my ever changing body. And you know what? It helped!

I went from a dark place of self-loathing to feeling compassion for all that I’d been through - both emotionally and physically. 

For many survivors, part of their healing journey is to use their experience to help others. And that’s what I’m doing with my boudoir photography. 

boudoir photography of woman in arkansas portrait studio sitting in window
boudoir photo of woman standing with her body against a large mirror
close up boudoir photo of woman wearing black lingerie in arkansas photoshoot

Transforming Trauma into Empowerment

Because I’m a sexual assault survivor too, I can relate to my boudoir photography clients who are on a similar path without taking over their stories. This is so much more important than I can emphasize.

In my studio, we take things extra slow, always keeping in mind what the client is comfortable doing and sharing. I only photograph females and have an all female team because I want every woman, survivor or not, to feel completely safe in my studio.

Some clients come to me just as they’re starting to go through their healing process, which is a fragile and sacred time. And that’s something I don’t take lightly.

I feel honored to create a safe and healing space for sexual survivors to strip away shame, and feel empowered again. We can’t take away the trauma, but we can certainly transform it!

boudoir photography of woman in arkansas photo studio shaking her blonde hair wearing green bra and underwear
boudoir photo of a woman laughing showing her tattoos from sexual assault survivorship in arkansas boudoir studio

I use my tattoos to hide where I was sexually assaulted the most. One day I’ll probably be covered fully. I know many of my clients have tattoos of similar meanings too.

boudoir photography of an arkansas woman wearing dark green bra and underwear hugging her torso

When you come in for a boudoir photoshoot, it’s my job to not only help you through the day, but to actually help you enjoy your day!

There will be laughter, hugging and caressing yourself, being silly, dancing, and there may be emotional tears. But I promise it’s all beautiful and therapeutic.

The actual photoshoot experience will help you reconnect with your body. And seeing your gorgeous photos will help you feel compassion for yourself.

The entire process will help you reclaim what was always rightfully yours - your body and your self-worth, because you fucking deserve to feel amazing!

boudoir photography of a woman in black lingerie posing with her back arched on a bed

Think boudoir photography is something you're ready to explore?

If your trauma is holding you back or affecting your outlook, your sex life, or your overall self-worth, I’d invite you to read through some of my reviews from past clients. See what they’ve said about their experience and how boudoir photography transformed their lives. And if you find yourself wanting that same experience, I’d love to talk with you.

Send me an inquiry, and we’ll talk about your story, my process, and how we can create a day for your to reclaim your body for you!

Sending you so much love!

XO, Ashlee

P. S. If you’re a survivor of sexual assault or know someone who could use some help, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center is a great place to start.

Ashlee is an Arkansas boudoir photographer helping women reclaim their power and feel beautiful and confident in their bodies.