FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 30, 2014
PUBLIC MONUMENT TO SURVIVORS OF RAPE AND ABUSE BEGINS MONTH-LONG TOUR ON AUGUST 9
Starting August 9, visitors across the US will witness stories from survivors of sexual violence stitched together on 200 bright, red quilt squares. Larger than two basketball courts put together, the traveling quilt is part of an ongoing project to create public healing space for survivors of rape and abuse.
“The Monument Quilt is touring the country and creating national conversation about supporting survivors of rape and abuse. Together we will create a culture where survivors are publicly supported rather than publicly shamed,” says Hannah Brancato, co-director of Force, the organization behind the Monument Quilt.
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.
At the displays, attendees will witness survivors’ stories, demonstrate public support, and transform their local response to rape. While walking through the rows of quilt squares, visitors will be able to write their own reflections, hear speeches from advocates and elected officials, and join in community.
Of the 200 stories, one quilt reads, “Please don’t tell me it didn’t happen or that I should be over it by now.” Another reads, “I reclaim my body as my sanctuary.” Survivors and allies who wish to add a square to the in-progress quilt can make one following these instructions. Squares will be added to the quilt in-person at the displays and collected over the next two years by mail.
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.
“Rape is not a special interest issue that affects a few people,” says Rebecca Nagle, co-director of Force. “Rape is a social justice issue that affects everyone. We are on the brink of recognising the scale and the scope of sexual violence in our communities: how many people are affected by it and how commonly it occurs. We must not shy away from this reality because it is unpleasant. Facing honestly the epidemic of rape is the first step in ending it.”
“The real experiences of rape, abuse and sexual assault in the US are silenced in mainstream discourse, but The Monument Quilt does two important things: it shatters that silence with tangible, interactive community art that engages all who see it and it provides a physical space for survivors to heal.” says Melanie Keller of Baltimore Hollaback. “This project has given me the strength and support to publicly say that I’m also a survivor of rape without fear of victim-blaming.”
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. On Sept 2, The Monument Quilt will be displayed at Wesleyan University on the first day of fall semester. The public demonstration of support for survivors lies in stark contrast to the campus climate last spring. In response to a lawsuit filed against a fraternity by a rape survivor, a graduating senior created a rap claiming that the real victims of the controversy were fraternity brothers. The seven-minute song, posted and spread through social media, is an example of how often the community response to sexual violence does more harm than good.
What if instead of tearing communities apart, sexual violence was a trauma and tragedy that brought communities together? What if the process of publicly disclosing incidents of sexual violence healed the survivor rather than adding to their trauma?
“The Monument Quilt provides clear and accessible steps to support survivors of rape and abuse when, often, people don’t know where to begin,” says Brancato of Force. “Through public recognition, the quilt reconnects survivors to their community.”
“The students of Wesleyan are thrilled and honored to host the Monument Quilt on September 2nd. Student activists, survivors and allies have been working hard to dismantle rape culture and ensure justice for survivors on campus,” says Chloe Murtagh, a Wesleyan student. The Facebook event for the Wesleyan display already has 250 attendees.
Many communities have been hosting quilt-making workshops in advance of the tour, including Queens, NY. The Queens Museum in partnership with Immigrant Movement International (IMI) and Violence Intervention Program, Inc. (VIP Mujeres) hosted a series of quilt-making workshops for women in the Corona neighborhood of Queens, NY.
Rocio, a workshop participant, says, “Each time I write on my quilt, I feel freedom, peace and tranquility. I pour my love and support for myself and for others. I know I am not alone!”
“Art-making and storytelling are powerful tools not only to heal individual trauma but to challenge a public culture that tolerates rape and relegates it to the private sphere,” says Prerana Reddy of the Queens Museum. Workshop participants along with many other community members will be able to see their quilts on display at the Queens Museum in August.
Advocates have also been organizing quilt-making workshops in South Dakota. “This project has helped White Buffalo Calf Woman Society build ‘stronger than ever’ relationships with relatives in our surrounding communities,” says Chelsey Spotted Tail from WBCWS. “The Monument Quilt, which encompasses our tradition, has helped heal spirits that were once broken.”
The Monument Quilt will be displayed in White River, SD on Saturday August 16 at the local high school football field in partnership with White Buffalo Calf Woman Society, Tokala Inajinyo Suicide Prevention Mentoring Program and the Defending Childhood Initiative. Founded in 1977, White Buffalo Calf Woman Society (WBCWS) is the first women’s shelter on an Indian Reservation in the United States and is a long-time leader in the national movement to end violence against indigenous women. According to the WBCWS website, “Violence against indigenous/Lakota women is not traditional to our culture and life way teachings. We believe it has its roots in an imposed and institutionalized system that was designed to maintain control over us as a People after genocide failed.”
One quilt made during the workshops hosted by White Buffalo Calf Woman Society reads, “Lakota women are sacred.”
Kalima Young, a Doctoral Student and Instructor at University of Maryland College Park, is helping organize an intentional space for Women of Color during the Baltimore display of The Monument Quilt. She says, “In a public project such as Force there is a deep need to create safe space to acknowledge and discuss the impact of historical and present-day race and gender-based trauma on female-bodied persons of color. Sexual trauma is complicated by racism and white supremacy and by creating an opportunity for female-bodied persons of color to discuss their unique histories around survivorship, we can hopefully begin to heal and organize in inclusive and affirming ways.”
“Rape thrives on inequity. Gender is not the only inequity through which rape operates. A broad base of Americans are affected by rape and abuse. People experience violence, recovery, justice and access very differently based on gender, sexual orientation, class, race, citizenship and ability,” says Rebecca Nagle, Force co-director. “However, the mainstream narrative of how sexual violence happens and who is experiencing it does not match this reality. Many survivors don’t see themselves and their experience in our media’s very narrow depiction of rape. The Monument Quilt seeks to create a highly public narrative of sexual violence that tells many stories, not one. Correcting the public misconception of who is experiencing sexual violence and how it is happening is one step towards ending rape.”
The 100 x 100 foot quilt that will be witnessed this summer is only the beginning. Over the next two years the quilt will continue to grow. 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.
The 2014 quilt tour is being organized in partnership with…
Alternate ROOTS,AAUW Younger Women’s Task Force Baltimore Chapter,American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore City Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice, Carnegie Mellon University Student Life Office,Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls and Young Women,Crisis Center, Inc., Deaf Iowans Against Abuse (DIAA), Defending Childhood Initiative (DCI), Domestic Violence Program Initiative,Durham Crisis Response Center, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland (GLCCB),Hollaback! Baltimore, Hollaback! Pittsburgh,Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault – Women of Color Advisory Network (WOCAN),Immigrant Movement International,Kiran Inc., La Casa Mandarina, Latinas Unidas por un Nuevo Amanecer (LUNA),LEAD Agency,Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault,LSU Women’s Center,Meskwaki, Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa,Mujeres Latinas en Accion,National Sexual Assault Conference,National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC),Nisaa African Women’s Project,North Carolina Central University Women’s Center,North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault,Orange County Rape Crisis Center (OCRCC),Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), People of Color Queer Allies Trans,Phynyx Ministries,Pittsburgh Action Against Rape,Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, Project&, Project NIA,Quapaw Tribe’s Domestic Violence Program,Queens Museum, Rape Advocacy, Counseling & Education Services (RACES),Rape Victims Advocate,REACH Counseling,REACH of Macon County, Salem Lutheran, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, SART Baltimore Community Partners, Sguympa Program,Shaw University Counseling Center, Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response (STAR),Stop Sexual Assault in the Military, Tokala Inajinyo Suicide Prevention Mentoring Program, TurnAround, Inc.,United Steelworkers Women of Steel,University of North Carolina at Greensboro, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Women’s Center,Violence Intervention Program, Inc. (VIP Mujeres), Wesleyan Feminist Underground, Wheeling Vet Center,White Buffalo Calf Woman Society,Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Pittsburgh Center for Race & Gender Equity
FORCE, the group behind The Monument Quilt is (as they put it) “an art and activist campaign to upset the dominant culture of rape and promote a culture of consent.” Recently, FORCE has received international press for pretending to be Playboy releasing a “Top Ten Party Commandments” guide to consensual sex for college students. The group is also widely known for their viral panty prank, where they pretended to be Victoria’s Secret promoting consent themed slogans on undies and thongs. They also received national attention for projecting “RAPE IS RAPE” onto the US Capitol Building, and for floating a poem written by a survivor in the reflecting pool of the national mall.