July 29, 2014


On the evening of August 20, residents of Pittsburgh will witness stories from survivors of sexual violence stitched together on 200 bright, red quilt squares. The Monument Quilt will be on display from 4pm to 8pm in Point State Park.  Larger than two basketball courts put together, the quilt is traveling the United States this summer as part of an ongoing project to create public healing space for survivors of rape and abuse. During a 12-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.

“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, Pittsburgh is not only part of this national conversation, but also is 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 20 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.

“The Monument Quilt is an impressive and powerful display that allows survivors to come forward to tell their stories and be recognized as heroes for coming forward, bringing awareness to an issue we all have a role in preventing,” says Ashley Bright of Pittsburgh Action Against Rape.

Sexual violence in the United States is nothing short of an epidemic. 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 they are breast cancer.

The National Sexual Assault Conference (NSAC), held in the Wyndham Garden Hotel directly across from Point State Park, will coincide with the Monument Quilt display. NSAC is a two-and-a-half day advocacy-based summit offering “advanced training opportunities” and “information regarding sexual violence intervention and prevention,” according to its website. The 2014 NSAC, titled “Many Voices, One Movement” is expecting more than than one thousand individuals from across the nation to join together in downtown Pittsburgh. They will gather to raise awareness about sexual violence, address the needs of survivors, and prevent the occurrence of sexual violence.

NSAC has partnered with the Monument Quilt to help bring the traveling display to Pittsburgh. Between the highly public quilt display, the national summit, and the work of other activists and organizations in the area, supporting survivors of rape and abuse is taking center stage in Pittsburgh this summer.

The Monument Quilt will be displayed in Pittsburgh in partnership with a diverse group of local organizations and institutions. Among these are Carnegie Mellon University Student Life Office, National Sexual Assault Conference, National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Stop Sexual Assault in the Military, United Steelworkers Women of Steel, Wheeling Vet Center, and Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Pittsburgh Center for Race & Gender Equity.

The Carnegie Mellon University Student Life Office works to enhance the experience and everyday lives of its students. Under the Student Life Office umbrella are sexual assault resources and support networks, programs to support gender equity and empowerment, resources for LGBTQ students, and other programs to support the student body.

Established in 1972, Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR) was originally founded by the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Organization of Women (NOW). PAAR is one of the oldest rape crisis centers in the country, providing advocacy and support to survivors of sexual assault both in the emergency and through the legal process, and offering counseling service. It also does outreach and educational work throughout Allegheny County in the effort to end sexual assault.

The YWCA Center for Race & Gender Equity works to eliminate racism and empower women throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania. It seeks to promote awareness of issues of inequality, educate the community, and advocate for change in the areas of racial justice and inclusion, health, and economic and educational empowerment.

Founded in 1985, Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force (PATF) is the oldest and largest HIV/AIDS service organization in Southwestern Pennsylvania, serving eleven counties in the area. PATF works to empower people living with HIV/AIDS and to prevent the disease from spreading. It provides support, information, and testing to those infected, and offers them a safe and confidential space. PATF seeks also to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.

Comprised of both veterans and civilians, Stop Sexual Assault in the Military (SSAM) operates within the Thomas Merton Center, a social justice center in Pittsburgh. SSAM educates the community, potential recruits, and ROTC programs about sexual assault in the military, supports services for survivors, and engages in advocacy efforts such as peaceful demonstrations.

The oldest and one of the largest state sexual assault coalitions, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) was founded in 1975. PCAR works with a network of rape crisis centers in Pennsylvania to support survivors of sexual violence, providing crisis centers with funding, training, materials, and general assistance. It actively works to promote policies that support survivors and protect their rights. PCAR operates both the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) and AEquitas: The Prosecutor’s Resource on Violence Against Women.

Established in 2000 by PCAR, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) works to both prevent and respond to sexual violence. It collaborates with critical players in sexual violence advocacy to create effective change, has an extensive library, and supports programs in accessing and contributing to a body of evidence that fortifies their joint effort to end sexual assault.

Women of Steel is an activist arm of the United Steelworkers union. It originated from efforts to demand that women have their rightful place in the union. Today, all female members of United Steelworkers are considered Women of Steel regardless of their position within the union or the industry or service they work in.

The Wheeling Vet Center is located in West Virginia, serving military veterans. Vet Centers encompass the Readjustment Counseling Service (RCS) branch of the Department of Veteran Affairs. Their primary focus is readjustment counseling for those veterans and their families who served in a combat zone and/or survived a sexual assault while in the military.

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 upsettingrapeculture@gmail.com.