Rape and abuse survivors could get national monument

New Lens ladies Cinneah El-Amin, Megan Sherman, Donnichia McAfee join Rebecca Nagle of FORCE facilitating workshop. (Chelsea Monae)

On Tuesday August 6, 2013 FORCE led a conversation in the Enoch Pratt Library’s Poe room about their goal of creating a national monument to honor survivors of rape and abuse. Joining them in facilitating the conversation were ladies from New Lens, House of Ruth and TurnAround.

Rebecca Nagle of FORCE said, “Survivors need a public and supportive space to heal. We live in a culture that blames rape survivors. We need to transition to a culture that supports them.”

About 40 people showed up to join in the discussion; survivors and supporters of diverse cultural backgrounds, including men.

In 2010 Hannah Brancato and Rebeca Nagle teamed up as curators to organize the art show called FORCE: On the Culture of RAPE.  It was an exhibition that merged art with activism to promote a critical dialogue about how our attitudes towards gender, sex, power and violence are played out on people’s bodies.

Works in the show addressed rape as both a psychological and a physical weapon. FORCE: On the Culture of Rape exposed the personal, social and political realities of rape culture in contemporary American society. In addition to a multi-media art exhibition, FORCE is an organizing ground. Performances, screenings and talk-backs were hosted to provide space to discuss works in the exhibit.

They are most widely known for their viral panty prank, where they pretended to be Victoria’s Secret promoting consent themed slogan on undies and thongs.  FORCE received national attention for projecting “RAPE IS RAPE” onto the US Capitol Building and for floating a GIANT poem written by a survivor in the reflecting pool on the national mall.

One of the ways FORCE plans to honor survivors is by creating a memorial quilt. Survivors submit their stories that are then posted on The Monument Project website. Quilting workshops are being held around the country. Individual survivors’ stories are being woven into the quilt.

THE MONUMENT QUILT will have two main messages: It’s Not Our Fault and We Are Not Alone.  People in the Baltimore area can participate directly in NOT ALONE; A Writing and Quilting Workshop this Sunday, August 11 at the Spiritual Empowerment Center located at 2129 North Charles St, Baltimore, MD  21218.

New Lens ladies including Cinneah El-Amin, Megan Sherman and Donnichia McAfee got workshop participants up and moving right away. The four corners of the Poe Room were labeled as responses to questions: Agree, Strongly Agree, Disagree and Strongly Disagree.

Questions like “Do you believe pop culture influences create rape? “And “Can a victim or potential victim prevent rape from occurring?” were asked. Participants then moved to the corners of the room that best reflected their answer.

The Disagree corner of the room was held down by me for all but a few questions. Several questions reflected the media’s role in perpetuating rape stereotypes and culture. In the questions there was no differentiation between mainstream and “indy” media. I stayed in that corner explaining that while many mainstream media outlets do this; it’s not all and certainly not representative of the independent media outlets I work with.

After the questions exercise, participants explored ways people are honored in the world, particularly survivors. They broke into discussion groups in the areas of Setting the Table, Fundraising and Public Support. The Setting the Table group’s focus was figuring out how to include everyone in the conversations since rape affects people in different ways.

Like it or not, it affects all of us. Public Support was about who to get support from and how. It also focused on people’s possible counter arguments against the monument being built. Fundraising was about various ways to fund this important major memorial. You can help with fundraising by making a donation here.

Participants left this conversation/workshop empowered to help support the Monument Project. Rape is a difficult topic for the majority of the population to discuss, often getting shoved under the proverbial rug.

As a survivor, I will do all in my power to talk about it and help people understand the current rape culture needs to change. By discussions and actions such as those implemented by FORCE and allies, hopefully rape will end.