Rape and abuse survivors’ stories to create giant quilt for National Mall.
A Baltimore-based art and activist group has announced that it is collecting stories from survivors of rape and abuse to create a giant quilt for the national mall. “The Monument Quilt” will occupy the lawn of the national mall, like the historic installations of the AIDs quilt for one weekend in the summer of 2014. The quilt will also be a GIANT picnic blanket that invites the public to sit, eat and talk. Add you story at themonumentproject.org.
“The installation of the Monument Quilt on the national mall will create a public and highly visible cultural space in which survivors’ stories are honored and respected instead of silenced and shamed,” says Rebecca Nagle, co-director of FORCE
. “The picnic and public conversations that happen around The Monument Quilt will show Americans that speaking more openly and publicly about sexual violence is not only OK- but necessary to ending rape to rape.”
With rape in the national spotlight, Americans have watched how our schools, towns and communities respond to sexual violence. From slut-shaming
to death threats
, recent news stories have highlighted the disturbing reality of how Americans treat survivors of sexual violence. Our country has heard the stories Rehtaeh Parsons
and Audrie Pott
, two teenagers whose young lives ended in suicide. When you listen to their stories, their death was as much a result of gossip, lack of justice, and public shaming as it was their gang rapes.
says, “Until we create public space where the experiences of survivors is honored, Americans’ reactions will continue to do more harm than good, for a population that has already experienced enough harm.”
The Monument Quilt is reminiscent of the NAMES project
, a community quilt memoralizing those that had died from AIDs. According to FORCE, AIDs activism can be used as a model for fighting rape in more ways than just the historic AIDs quilt:
“At the beginning of the HIV/AIDs epidemic, the shame of the disease was placed on the ill. Homophobia fueled a country that blamed gay people for contracting the disease. America was ready to sweep one of the largest public health crises under the rug. Through public demonstrations like the AIDS quilt, advocates created public space where the ill and their loved ones no long had to live in silence and shame. This helped change public opinion, so that Americans were no longer hostile toward those with AIDs. Changing public opinion ultimately made way for new policies, better drugs, education, and prevention; all of which has resulted in a dramatic decrease in the rate of infection and death. While the work of preventing AIDs is not over, the movement is a model for how a cultural shift can affect public health. Just as removing the stigma from AIDs slowed a growing epidemic, removing the stigma from rape could forever change the epidemic of sexual violence in the United States.”
The Monument Quilt will not be a simple rectangle, but rather blankets assembled in the shapes of words writing a message for survivors and our nation. Giant fabric letters, laid out on the national mall will say,
“WE ARE HEARD.
THIS IS NOT OUR FAULT.
WE ARE NOT ALONE.”
“These statement represent the cultural shifta that need to take place in our country,” says Hannah Brancato, co-director of FORCE. “Today, in our country, the most common experience for survivors is to feel blamed, silenced and isolated. To change this we need to tell survivors, in a very public way ‘You are not alone. This is not your fault.’”
The Monument Quilt is part of an ongoing campaign to build a permanent monument to survivors of rape and abuse.
“We believe in building a national monument to survivors of rape and abuse because we want to live in a country that holds public, supportive space for survivors to heal,” says Brancato. “We believe a permanent monument will become a beacon for our nation, symbolizing that rape can and must end.”
The author of that poem says this about the need for a permanent memorial:
“There are no safe places to talk about my experience. People look at me with pity, or they associate what happened to me with the choices I made, when I do tell my story. I know I am not alone in my inability to define my experiences and even now, I do not completely understand them. A lot of my healing process has been internal. A public memorial would create both a physical space and a psychological space that does not exist in our culture—one where survivors are not blamed or judged, but rather are honored and respected for their ability to survive and thrive through trauma and shame, where they do not need to learn to live with part of their identity hidden, and where their character is not judged by their assault.”
While the group is campaigning to build a permanent monument on the mall, they are building a virtual monument online. Launching this summer, themonumentproject.org
will be an online quilt containing survivors’ stories. The virtual quilt will create another important forum for the truth to surface. Survivors are already sending in stories that speak to the burden of shame and the need for a monument.
As one survivor puts it,
“In no other crime is the emotional burden—the shame, the guilt—placed on the victim. When I was mugged, no one blamed me for being mugged. I did not become defined as a person who had been mugged. I do not hesitate to tell people that I have been mugged. I hesitate to tell people that I have been sexually abused.”
To add your story to the historic Monument Quilt email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
with the subject line “My Story”. For the quilt, please include what color you would like your square to be.
FORCE is currently fundraising for materials to create the Monument Quilt. You can support the project through their kickstarter atkck.st/ZME5ZG