Monument Quilt raises awareness of survivor stories

KAREEM OSMAN/PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR After delays, the Monument Quilt came to the Homewood Campus Wednesday to display reactions to sexual assault.

KAREEM OSMAN/PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR
After delays, the Monument Quilt came to the Homewood Campus Wednesday to display reactions to sexual assault.

By KELSEY KO
For The News-Letter

The Monument Quilt, described as a “public healing space by and for survivors of rape and abuse,” came to Hopkins on Wednesday at an event organized by the Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW) and the Sexualt Assualt Resource Unit (SARU). The quilt, which was laid out on the Beach and took up several hundred square feet, has traveled all across the United States and features stories and artwork from survivors of sexual violence, along with messages of support from allies.

Alyse Campbell, the sexual assault prevention, education and response coordinator at CHEW, spoke about the importance of the Monument Quilt and what it has been doing for survivors all across America.

“The Monument Quilt is a public space to lift up survivors,” Campbell said. “It’s a place where really anyone can come in and hear stories. It’s a safe space so we have some counselors out here, a relaxation station, and even a decompression station in case anyone is triggered by anything. We have student and staff supporters, things like Play-Doh, coloring sheets, [and] a place where people can make lavender sugar scrub to take with them and de-stress.”

The quilt is an ongoing project, composed of the voices of survivors and allies throughout the United States.

“We have a quilt-making station, so people are able to make their own squares to contribute to the quilt. These [quilt squares] have been made across the country and [the quilt itself] travels around the country. People who are just passing by that might not be survivors of gender violence but still want to be an ally can also make a square,” Campbell said.

Hasche commented on the importance for survivors and allies alike.

“I think that it’s a very beautiful display of support and solidarity, especially because this is such a common problem on campus that’s often overlooked or trivialized by a lot of people,” junior and SARU member Anne Hasche said. ”I think a lot of survivors of sexual assault are encouraged by society indirectly or directly to keep their stories to themselves and deal with their recovery process in private, and I think the Monument Quilt just gives them a public space to do that and to acknowledge that these things have happened. I think having this big display is showing a lot of support for survivors saying ‘we’re here, we’re listening, and we’re going to support you’ when a lot of time in society and colleges campuses that isn’t the attitude.”

Campbell, who has been organizing and coordinating the Monument Quilt’s arrival at Hopkins for over a year, is thrilled to see her project finally come to fruition. TurnAround Baltimore, an organization for survivors of sexual violence, was also integral in getting the quilt to Homewood. It had previously been scheduled to come to Hopkins twice last spring but faced some setbacks.

“We had to cancel once for weather, and another time we had to cancel because it was right when the Baltimore protests were going on — Black Lives Matter was meeting here and we didn’t want to take away from what was going on. But it ended up working really well because it’s a beautiful day. I’m so excited,” Campbell said.

Survivors of gender violence often feel voiceless and isolated, but the quilt will work to create more of an accepting environment both at Hopkins and across America, according to Campbell.

“One of the biggest challenges survivors face is that they don’t know where to turn, and they don’t feel supported. Our culture isn’t a culture that supports survivors, so what the quilt does is that it very loudly, in a form of artwork, demands that survivors have a voice,” Campbell said. “Seeing something like this with so many stories and so many people to support them can be really empowering for somebody to get help, or to talk about what happened to them without feeling judged or blamed.”

Senior Ella Rogers-Fett, a co-director of SARU, discussed the importance of drawing attention to sexual assault issues.

“One of the aims of the Monument Quilt is to create a public healing space and that’s in opposition to the spaces that survivors are usefully afforded to heal. Even the best kinds of healing spaces, whether they’re rape crisis centers or shelters, are all done behind close doors. As survivors that doesn’t do a lot to combat that feeling of shame,” Rogers-Fett said. “Having the Monument Quilt out here in the open and commanding this public space is a really important part to combating rape culture because it’s showing people that, yes, this does happen, sexual assault exists. These are survivors and they’re whole people. They’re not just something that happened in a TV show and their stories end there. These are survivors, they’re so resilient, they’re continuing with their lives, these are their stories out in the open, and we’re accepting them into our community. They’re part of our community and we value them. I think that’s not usually a narrative that’s usually told about sexual assault.”

Campbell believes that the campus-wide and national conversation about rape and gender violence is taking a turn for the better.

“I think there’s a national push to be more supportive of survivors and to have more discussion of what gender violence looks like,” Campbell said. “It’s part of a national conversation that’s trying to create a cultural shift that talks about gender violence more so that people and survivors can find help.”

At Hopkins, the new mandatory Bystander Intervention Training that all freshmen must go through is designed to make new students more conscientious about noticing and intervening in situations of gender violence. Part of the training involves students closing their eyes and showing with a raise of hands, how many people have experienced or know someone who has experienced some form of gender violence. In many instances, well over a third of the room raises their hands.

“Bystander Intervention Training is a big initiative that we’re doing on campus,” Campbell said. “When we do the ‘raise of hands’ thing, people don’t realize how many people are affected. Hopefully with the work we’re doing on campus we can create a community where survivors can expect more support. Nobody’s born knowing ‘I’m gonna be a survivor.’ Nobody has time to prepare for that.”

The Monument Quilt’s journey across America will culminate in a one-mile patchwork quilt of gender violence stories being displayed at the National Mall, spelling out “Not Alone.” Though the take-down of rape culture is far from over, Campbell hopes the quilt will make great strides in contributing to an ongoing discussion about the prevalence of gender violence in America.

“The goal of making a really public display is to increase the discussion so that it’s one less thing a survivor has to deal with — worrying about being believed, or being blamed, or finding justice. The idea is to be a catalyst,” Campbell said.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, you can seek out help from sexual violence resources at JHU. Sexual Assault Helpline (24/7): 410-516-733, Counseling Center (M-F 8:30am-5pm): 410-516-8278, Alyse Campbell — Sexual Violence Prevention, Education, and Response Coordinator (M-F 8:30am-5pm): 410-516-5133.

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