Hundreds Across Oklahoma Come Together to Support Survivors of Rape and Abuse
The first-ever public monument to survivors of rape and abuse toured Oklahoma this week and was met by hundreds of supporters. The Monument Quilt is an ongoing collection of stories from survivors of rape and abuse. The Native Alliance Against Violence (NAAV) and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation brought the quilt to Oklahoma City and Tulsa during Sexual Assault Awareness month.
During one tour stop, the lawn of the Oklahoma State capitol was engulfed in a sea of red fabric. Written, stitched and painted onto over 450 red quilt squares were stories from survivors of rape and abuse. The quilt was on display for a day of advocacy to address violence against Native women in Indian Country. Two days later on April 4, the same quilt traveled to Tulsa and was displayed at OU’s Schusterman campus. It was greeted with hundreds of visitors from the Tulsa metropolitan area.
Native American women are sexual assaulted 2.5 times as often as any other ethnic or racial groups. For decades, tens of thousands of Native American women have been unable to prosecute their perpetrators because of U.S. policy. The 2013 Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act began to address this injustice for domestic violence survivors, but jurisdictional issues still prevent rape survivors from getting the justice they deserve.
Dawn Stover, director of NAAV, said of the display at the Oklahoma State Capitol, “We all need to act collectively to address sexual assault. I think today’s event was a great success. The voices of state legislature, tribal leaders, survivors, advocates and The Monument Quilt were instrumental in sending a collective message to say, ‘No more sexual assault!’”
On Thursday, members of the Oklahoma State Legislature Native American Caucus spoke at the event including representatives Justin Wood, William Fourkiller and Jerry McPeak. Lawmakers expressed the need to build communities that support survivors.
Two days later, FORCE and the Muscogee (Creek) National brought the Monument Quilt to OU Tulsa. On a sunny Saturday afternoon, families and communities members gathered to read survivors’ stories, listen to speakers, make their own quilt squares and join in the community of support. The display was planned in partnership with the Family Safety Center, University of Oklahoma and the Domestic Violence Intervention Services.
“The legacy of colonization has had a tremendous impact on our people for generations. Our Elders tell us these kinds of victimizations were not the kind of behavior that was tolerated or really practiced much among our people,” said Shawn Partridge, director of Family Violence Prevention Program at Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
Partridge went on to say, “When people come out to this public healing space, they show that survivors should be supported. For our quilt workshops, we had volunteers, mostly Elders, doing some sewing on the quilt. To have Elders involved, a lot of whom have suffered domestic or sexual violence or child sexual abuse is so crucial. Bringing people of all ages to work on creating art to be part of this exhibit is an amazing opportunity.”
Terra Long, a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, said that, “This Monument Quilt is letting them [survivors] know that they are not alone.” Long, who is also a member of the Gamma Delta Pi sorority at UO went on to say that, “Us, as Native women, we need that support. Our tradition is relying on our community. This quilt is bringing in different tribes, different people, different nations as a community, as a whole.”
The Monument Quilt is a physical space that provides public recognition to survivors and reconnects them with their community and its members. The quilt seeks to change the public perception of who experiences sexual violence, by telling many stories, not just one. The quilt will forever change how the U.S. responds to rape, from a culture that publicly shames survivors, to a culture that publicly supports them. Survivors, loved ones and supporters are invited to make their own quilt square following these instructions.