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Monument quilt tells stories of sexual abuse and survival
 
Published Thursday, August 28, 2014
by Latisha Catchatoorian

DURHAM – The quilt carpeting Durham Central Park gave comfort to those it touched, but through its emotional reach rather than its physical contact.

The Monument Quilt display is a crowd-sourced collection of stories from survivors of rape and abuse stitched together on quilts. Durham was just one stop on a national tour put on by FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, a creative activist collaboration to upset the culture of rape and promote a culture of consent.

“People have been writing messages of support as we’ve traveled through dozens of states (and) worked with more than 60 partner organizations,” FORCE co-Director Hannah Brancato said. “This really has been a transformative journey, and, as we move through, the quilt is physically growing in size.”

One quilt square writer wrote, “Violence seems to have become a part of our culture. This is completely unacceptable.”

“The project overall is to say there should be a permanent monument to survivors of sexual assault, that it’s not an individual’s responsibility to deal with their trauma on their own, it’s a community responsibility,” Brancato said. “This is a social problem we’ve all created, and we’re all responsible for doing something to end it.”

Aurelia Sands-Belle, executive director of the Durham Crisis Response Center, told viewers that they were there to look at a monument that speaks to folks who have been inured by a “devastating crime.”

“This year we are celebrating 20 years of the Against Violence Against Women Act. The name itself, in actually representing ‘not alone,’ is completely in sync with survivors and those of us who commit our lives to this work. It is a reminder that each of these squares as they are quilted in mean that none of us are alone,” said Monika Johnson Hostler, executive director of the N.C. Coalition Against Sexual Violence.

Quilt squares were adorned with pictures, drawings, quotes, phrases and actual written stories about people’s experiences. Some were signed, but most were anonymous.

One story recounted a girl who was raped at 13 and told no one until she was 20, except for the doctor who abused her after her examination.

Another quilt square read, “Before I can forgive you, I have to forgive myself for the way I treated me.”

“I’ve read some people’s stories and it’s really sad. The one that really got me…she didn’t tell anyone that her uncle had abused her, and it was really sad because she said she thought that she was like every woman in her family who thought she was the only one to get raped,” said Jamayah Parrish, a high school student who read the stories.

Chalam Tubati, one of the few men present at the event, said he was struck by people who put their “very personal stories out here for public debate.”

“I was reading one of the stories which made a point that culture is such a big part of all of this, how people internalize the concepts of gender and the roles that people are to be playing. People probably don’t see this problem (for) as serious as it is,” he said.

Ruby Haskins, a volunteer with the Durham Crisis Response Center, said she was sexually assaulted by a family member as a child and also went through domestic violence.

“I’m a survivor of both types of settings,” she said. “The display is beautiful and I love reading the stories, and I can not only relate, but I can see myself; it’s like a mirror.”

“As long as we are together – whether it’s by thread or whether it’s by handholding, whether it’s by words of encouragement – we are not alone in this work, and we’re making sure that survivors know that we’re with them throughout this journey,” Hostler said.

Added Sands-Belle,: “We are going to end sexual violence against women and children in our lifetime. It is possible, it is doable; but we have to have everybody out here – black, white, males, Hispanics, Native Americans – everybody has got to join us in doing this work.”

For more information or to get involved with the movement, visit www.themonumentquilt.org

 

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