FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 29, 2014
BATON ROUGE TO HOST THE MONUMENT QUILT, PUBLICLY SUPPORT SURVIVORS OF RAPE AND ABUSE
On August 12, residents of the Baton Rouge will witness stories from survivors of sexual violence stitched together on 200 bright, red quilt squares. The Monument Quilt will be on display from 10:30am to 1:30pm at North Boulevard Town Square (200 North Blvd.) in downtown Baton Rouge. Larger than two basketball courts put together, the quilt is traveling the US this summer as part of an ongoing project to create public healing space for survivors of rape and abuse. During a twelve-city tour, The Monument Quilt will be displayed at public parks, town squares, college campuses and high school football fields from White River, SD to Queens, NY.
“We are thrilled to bring The Monument Quilt to Baton Rouge,” says Racheal Hebert, Executive Director of Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response. “Often rape survivors feel ashamed, isolated and stigmatized by their experiences; the Monument Quilt will help bring together hundreds of stories of survivors and supporters to help survivors in our community know that they are not alone.”
“This summer’s tour will create a national conversation about supporting survivors of rape and abuse,” says Rebecca Nagle, co-director of Force, the group behind the quilt project. “We are honored that through local organizations and activists, Baton Rouge is not only part of this national conversation, but leading it. Together we will create a culture where survivors are publicly supported rather than publicly shamed.”
At the display, attendees will witness survivors’ stories, demonstrate public support, and transform their local response to rape. Participants will be able to write their own reflections, hear speeches and join in community. Survivors and allies who wish to add a square to the in-progress quilt can make one following these instructions. Squares brought on August 12 will be added to the display.
The Monument Quilt provides clear and accessible steps to support survivors of rape and abuse when, often, people don’t know where to begin. Through public recognition, the quilt reconnects survivors to their community.
Sexual violence in the United States is nothing short of an epidemic. In the US, 1 in 3 women, 1 in 3 trans* people and 1 in 6 men will be raped or abused in their lifetime. Women are twice as likely to experience rape as breast cancer.
Summer Steib of the Louisiana State University Women’s Center says, “Louisiana has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the states ranked the worst for women. Key factors contributing to these ranking are the incident rates and institutional responses to gender-based violence. The Monument Quilt is a great opportunity for citizens of Baton Rouge to learn more about the scope and impact of assault and abuse through physically interacting with actual stories shared by survivors. One of our goals is to encourage community members participating in the Monument Quilt display to make personal commitments to creating a safer community and ensuring survivors have the resources they need to heal.”
One example of the inadequate institutional response to sexual assault in Louisiana came from a recent audit done by the inspector general last month. The audit found that the New Orleans Police Department has been misclassifying many rape cases. 46% of forcible rapes were misclassified as a lesser crime of sexual battery, misclassified as a miscellaneous offence, and/or improperly ruled as unfounded.
In contrast, the Louisiana House unanimously approved “Erin’s Law”. Already passed in twenty other states, the law requires schools to teach kids what constitutes sexual abuse and sexual assault.
“Every level of prevention and response to sexual assault are affected by the culture that we live in,” says Rebecca Nagle of Force. “From education in schools, to law enforcement, and event the response of friends and family. As long as our mainstream culture is unable to hear survivors’ experiences and support them, we will continue to see that failure of support at the individual and institutional level.”
Founded in 1975 originally as a division of the East Baton Rouge Attorney General’s Office, Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response (STAR) incorporated into a non-profit in 2011 to increase its educational outreach and to ensure confidentiality. Today, STAR extends its services to the entire Capital Region, providing counseling services and resources for the prevention of sexual assault. It serves more than 3,000 individuals annually.
Since opening its doors in 1995, the Women’s Center has supported Louisiana State University (LSU) and the surrounding community with educational and events programming, information and referrals, and a space in which to gather. It is dedicated to the advancement of gender equity both on and beyond the LSU campus.
This display is part of a twelve-city tour set to begin this August. The Monument Quilt will visit Arden, NC; Birmingham, AL; Baton Rouge, LA; Quapaw, OK; Des Moines, IA; White River, SD; Fox Valley, WI; Chicago, IL; Pittsburgh, PA; Queens, NY; Durham, NC; Baltimore, MD; and Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT.
The 100 x 100 foot quilt that will be witnessed this summer is only the beginning. Over the next two years, more and more stories will be added to The Monument Quilt. In a final display, The Monument Quilt will blanket over one mile of the National Mall with thousands of quilt squares to spell “NOT ALONE.”
For those interested in shaping this nation-wide community art project, there are many different ways to get involved. Survivors and allies can make their own quilt square. People across the country are invited to host quilt-making workshops in their school, community center, place of worship, or town. You can also volunteer time or donate money to help make this vision a reality. All the different ways to engage, resources for survivors, information about upcoming events, and more can be found at themonumentquilt.org. If you are interested in volunteering at a quilt display, email firstname.lastname@example.org.