The public reaction to survivors of rape and abuse publicly disclosing their experiences is often messy and problematic. From high school students to news anchors, the American public struggles with how to support survivors of sexual violence. We live in a country where it is safer to commit an act of rape that to publicly disclose having survived one.
What if, instead of tearing a community apart, sexual violence was a tragedy and trauma that brought communities together? What if the public process of uncovering these dark truths healed the people most affected by them? What if, when a survivor feels blamed, our country tells them it’s not their fault? What if when a survivor feels isolated, we tell them they are not alone? What if when a survivor feels silenced, we listen?
The Monument Quilt is a crowd-sourced collection of thousands of stories from survivors of rape and abuse. Created by FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, the quilt creates public space for survivors to heal.
“It’s something that a lot of the stories here speak to, in the quilt,” said one witness of the quilt. “A sense of shame, or silencing or not feeling community or not feeling supported by the people who are closest to you. So I think part of what the Monument Quilt accomplishes is making support public and red and giant and obvious.”
By stitching our stories together, survivors are creating and demanding public space to heal. The Monument Quilt is a platform to not only tell our stories, but to work together to forever change how people in the US respond to rape. We are creating a new culture where survivors are publicly supported rather than publicly shamed.
In a final display, The Monument Quilt will blanket over one mile of the national mall to spell “NOT ALONE”. This summer the Monument Quilt is touring the Eastern half of the United States. The tour is an effort to connect cities and towns to the healing, transformative space of the quilt. Force is currently taking donations via Kickstarter to finance the tour.
We are going to work with schools, churches, advocacy groups, crisis centers and community organizations in each city to plan their display. At each display attendees will be able to witness survivor’s stories, write their own reflections, enjoy cookies, listen to music and speeches, and join in community. The tour will strengthen and deepen the impact of the Monument Quilt by engaging communities on the ground.
After holding displays in Baltimore and DC, we realized more people in more places need to see and experience the quilt. That’s why we are taking the quilt on the road.
Witnesses had this to say about being with the quilt:
“I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude that FORCE started this project, because it means that my experience matters,” said Melanie. “It means that what happened to me and others like me shouldn’t be kept hush-hush and shouldn’t be ignored because it’s part of a larger system of gender-based violence. Until now, no one has prioritized survivors of rape enough to create a public space for us to heal, be safe and for others to reflect on its place in our society.”
“If I had to sum up my experience of the quilt in one word, I would say the quilt was ‘safe,’” said one visitor to the DC display. “As a survivor, my biggest struggle in life has been to feel safe. It’s been a struggle to feel safe in intimate relationships, and it’s been a struggle to feel safe in the presence of co-workers, or just walking down the street— I have never, in my entire life, felt it was “safe” to publicly express my grief, pain, anger, or sorrow related to the trauma that I have survived. For the first time in my life, I walked into a public space where it was safe to be a Survivor. It’s a life-altering experience that all Survivors deserve.”
There are many other ways to get involved in the quilt project. 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. All the different ways to engage, resources for survivors, information about upcoming events, and more can be found at themonumentquilt.org.