Monument to Rape Survivors Blankets Downtown Des Moines


Rebecca Nagle

Monument to Rape Survivors Blankets Downtown Des Moines


Yesterday, visitors witnessed stories from survivors of rape and abuse emblazoned on 200 bright red quilt squares.  On a Thursday afternoon, the 200 quilt squares were laid out in Western Gateway Park. The Monument Quilt, is an on-going project to create public healing space by and for survivors. The quilt was brought to Des Moines by Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa in partnership with Deaf Iowans Against Abuse (DIAA),  Gateway Dance Theatre, Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault – Women of Color Advisory Network, Latinas Unidas por un Nuevo Amanecer (LUNA), Meskwaki Family Service, Nisaa African Women’s Project, and People of Color Queer Allies Trans.

“I think the quilt is empowering,” says Hibo Jama from Nisaa African Women’s Project. “It is a voice.  It shows sexual assault victims they are valued. It is not their fault. I’ve worked with a lot of women who feel very alone in their experience.  With this, they can feel supported.”

“I loved the unity of the programs involved and feeling the positive energy that the event brought,” said Dara Jefferson SAIDV Advocate at Meswaki Victim Services.

“Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa, in collaboration with culturally specific organizations serving survivors/victims of sexual violence from the African, Asian Pacific Islander, Deaf, Latino, and LGBTQ communities organized to host the Monument Quilt stop as a continued effort to break the silence on sexual violence,” says Mira Yusef of Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa. “Many of our community members would not know where to go were it not for organizations and community groups that have made the space for stories to be told and believed. Given the silence, shame and stigma surrounding sexual violence, it is monumental risk to tell stories of sexual violence that we have survived, witnessed, or committed. The Monument Quilt’s stop in Des Moines is our continued work in creating spaces to break the silence, heal, and prevent sexual violence.”

The Des Moines display was the fifth stop on a 13-city US tour.  The Monument quilt will continue traveling this month to visit White River, SD; Fox Valley, WI; Chicago, IL; Pittsburgh, PA; Queens, NY; Durham, NC; Baltimore, MD; and Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT.

Each quilt is completely different, like each individual experience with sexual violence.

One survivor wrote, “It was men who taught me that assault only happens to women, robbing me of the language I needed to name and process my experience.”

Sewn onto one quilt square are the shorts and t-shirt the survivor was wearing at the time of their assault.  The square simply states, “STRONG”.

A quilt that was made in a workshop hosted by MUAWI states, “Because of colonization and continued militarization, the girls and women in my community are seen as ‘fuckable’”.

People who are interested in adding their own quilt square to the project can find instructions here.

The 100 x 100 foot quilt displayed in Birmingham this past Sunday is only the beginning. Over the next two years, more stories will be added to The Monument Quilt. In a final display, The Monument Quilt will blanket over one mile of the National Mall with thousands of quilt squares to spell “NOT ALONE.”

Photos by Eric D Sammon:

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