Founded in 2010 by and for survivors, FORCE is an art and activist collective dedicated to constructing a culture of consent, widely known for creating public art to disrupt rape culture. After completing the Monument Quilt in 2019, our largest project to date, FORCE is looking to the future by focusing our efforts on the development of direct unique services programs for PTSD and trauma survivors, advocacy, youth leadership and projects that feature young people’s voices. FORCE is an intersectional, LGBTQ focused, multicultural, pro-black and anti-white supremacist collective, who has done our deepest organizing work in Baltimore and Mexico City, and has planted seeds globally. We strive for our visual imagery, language, resources, and organizing strategies to have a local and global impact in our efforts to end sexual and intimate partner violence by changing social attitudes and connecting these shifts to policy change. FORCE is a collective, and is currently led by Tyde-Courtney Edwards, Mora Fernández and Shanti Flagg. FORCE believes in the possibility of ending sexual violence by creating a culture of consent.
FORCE is best known for blanketing the National Mall last May with the Monument Quilt, a collection of over 3,000 stories by survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence and our allies, written, painted, and stitched onto red fabric. Our stories literally blanket highly public, outdoor places to create and demand space to heal, and resist a singular narrative about sexual violence. Over the 6 years that the project was organized, we received coverage national coverage including CNN, MSNBC and Refinery 29. The culminating display was covered by Ms Magazine, the Marshall Project, Washington Post, and Voice of America.
FORCE’s expertise on survivor-led advocacy is nationally recognized. FORCE’s staff has presented at the National Sexual Assault Conference, Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault Women of Color Network, Tennessee Coalition Against Sexual Assault Annual Prevention Conference, Louisiana Conference on Sexual Assault and Family Violence, and North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault Prevention Training, in addition to local and national anti-violence, communications, art and media conferences. Leadership team members have presented about the intersection of the Monument Quilt with a range of issues at conferences that include the 2016 Civil Liberties and Public Policy Conference, the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders, Take Root, and Strong Women Strong Nation at the National Museum of the American Indian. FORCE has also hosted trainings and webinars for more than 30 colleges and organizations, including the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Johns Hopkins University, University of Illinois, the Army SHARP program, and Native Alliance Against Violence.
At FORCE, we believe that rape is a systemic and normalized phenomenon in our culture, and it is used as a tool for building and upholding white supremacy. Rather than viewing the culture of rape as a problem to change, people in a rape culture think about the persistence of rape as “just the way things are.” Our organization’s mission is to foster relationships between survivors, provide support and education, and create spaces where survivors can experience the world we/they deserve. We honor art and expression as invaluable communication tools that make a better world–and value survivors’ stories in all their vast diversity as holding the answers. In fighting rape culture, we must honor the humanity/individuality of every person.
FORCE’s definition of rape culture is a world where we do not have control over our own bodies. In a rape culture, society is surrounded with images, language, laws, and other everyday phenomena that validate and perpetuate rape, such as jokes, TV programming, music lyrics, advertising, legal jargon, laws, words, and imagery that make sexual violence and coercion seem so normal that people believe that rape is inevitable.