Monument to Rape Survivors Blankets Rushton Park


August 11, 2014

Rebecca Nagle

Monument to Rape Survivors Blankets Rushton Park

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Yesterday, roughly 200 visitors witnessed stories from survivors of rape and abuse emblazoned on 200 bright red quilt squares.  On a warm Sunday afternoon, the quilts blanketed the entire hillside of Rushton Park. Those who passed by the park could read the message “NOT ALONE” in giant red letters. The Monument Quilt, is an on-going project to create public healing space by and for survivors.  In Birmingham this weekend, the quilt created a 100 x 100 foot sanctuary for survivors to share their stories, be heard and heal.  The quilt was brought to Birmingham by The Rape Response Program at Crisis Center, Inc.

“I think it stops most people in their tracks,” said one visitor.

“I was driving and saw the NOT ALONE at the top of the hill. I had to pull the car over because it was so powerful,” said Meg McGalmery of Crisis Center, Inc.

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“By stitching our stories together, we are creating and demanding public space to heal,” says Rebecca Nagle, co-director of Force, the group behind the quilt. “The Monument Quilt is a platform to not only tell our stories, but work together to forever change how the US responds to rape. We are creating a new culture where survivors are publicly supported, rather than publicly shamed.”

“It was a journey, traveling through everyone’s story,” said one visitor. “I felt their bravery, the bravery of putting feelings into words.  Finding the words to tell your story: thats the hardest part of being a survivor.”

“We were so excited to have The Monument Quilt in Birmingham!” said Aryn Gieger, Rape Response Program Coordinator at Crisis Center, Inc. “Being able to provide safe public spaces for survivors is crucial to starting community conversations about sexual violence. Without starting those conversations, we will never be able to change a culture that excuses rape and shames survivors.”

The Birmingham display was the second stop of a 13-city US tour.  The Monument quilt will continue traveling this month to visit 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.

Visitors to Sunday’s display were greeted by volunteers, offered snacks and handed postcards with self-care tips to take home. A border around the installation reminded visitors to “breathe” and “its OK to cry, to talk, to leave, to be still.”

“The quilt airs out emotions that are usually confined to private spaces,” says Hannah Brancato, FORCE co-director. “The trauma of sexual violence in the United States affects everyone.  And we need spaces where communities can begin to heal and become more whole.”

Each quilt is completely different, like each individual experience with sexual violence. Some quilts contain detailed stories.  Some quilts contain parts of stories.  Others contain messages of support or statements about sexual violence.  Some squares contain no written language but are rather a landscape of an emotion.

One survivor wrote, “It was men who taught me that assault only happens to women, robbing me of the language I needed to name and process my experience.”

One survivor wrote, “Please don’t tell me it didn’t happen or that I should be over it by now.”

And one quilt told their story through a bible verse: “‘They are extinguished.  I am about to do a new thing.’ Isaiah 43:19.”

People who are interested in adding their own quilt square to the project can find instructions here.

The 100 x 100 foot quilt displayed in Birmingham this past Sunday is only the beginning. Over the next two years, 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.”