Durham County

August 24, 2014

Monument Quilt brings rape survivors' stories to Durham

A field of red squares blanketed Durham Central Park on Sunday. The 200 panels contained messages sewn and written on fabric from people who have been affected by sexual violence. Many of them were raped; others have a loved one who has been assaulted.

A field of red squares blanketed Durham Central Park on Sunday.

The 200 panels contained messages sewn and written on fabric from people affected by sexual violence, many of them raped, others with a loved one who has been assaulted.

The Monument Quilt is a public healing space, meant to create and demand a place where people can begin changing how communities respond to rape. The N.C. Coalition Against Sexual Assault helped bring it to Durham on a 13-city tour of parks, town squares, college campuses and high school football fields from White River, S.D., to Queens, N.Y.

Along the way, organizers have added stories. Some day, they hope to have thousands stitched on panels spelling “Not Alone” a mile wide on the National Mall in Washington.

In the meantime, the project is fostering a conversation about sexual violence, said Hannah Brancato, co-founder of Force: Upsetting Rape Culture, the art-activist group behind the effort.

“We’re at a point where (many) people want to say, ‘Oh, we’ve moved on,’ ” she said. “But actually there’s a lot of work to do.”

The quilt is modeled on the AIDS Quilt, which became a rallying symbol during the AIDS crisis.

Rape and sexual violence is another epidemic, Brancato said. And just like AIDS got people talking about condoms, organizers see The Monument Quilt getting people to talk about consent and creating a culture where it’s the norm for both partners to express their willingness before having sex.

That doesn’t always happen now.

“Studies show that about one in five women is a survivor of attempted or completed sexual violence while in college,” according to a presidential memorandum in January establishing a White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. A “substantial” number of men also experience sexual violence during college, the memorandum said.

Latisha Catchatoorian of Durham had a friend who was raped in college.

“I think about it a lot,” the 25-year-old reporter for The Triangle Tribune said as she read the panels Sunday.

“It made me really conscious of the places I went, of the people I hung out with,” she said. “It was with people she trusted.”

Jamechya Carter Duncan coordinates a federal Violence Against Women grant at Shaw University aimed at reducing domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

“I feel like a lot of college students, they don’t really know or they don’t want to know about rape until it happens,” she said. “It’s something that’s avoided (being talked about).”

That’s where Brancato hopes the quilt can rally support for making sure sex is always something both partners want.

“It’s happening,” she said, adding, “Nobody knew what ‘sexual consent’ was a few years ago.”

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