The Monument Quilt: Building Communities, Empowering Rape Survivors

by Emma Tilden

The rape awareness group FORCE has recently launched a new campaign for rape awareness called The Monument Quilt. 

The most important thing about The Monument Quilt is that it is a platform for survivors of rape and abuse to tell their stories. Or maybe it’s that the Quilt is community-built. Or maybe it’s that, as the survivors stitch their stories together, they embark on a healing journey with thousands of other survivors and supporters. Or maybe the most important thing is that the Quilt exists at all:

“The Monument Quilt is a crowd-sourced collection of thousands of stories from survivors of rape and abuse. By stitching our stories together, we are creating and demanding public space to heal.  The Monument Quilt is a platform to not only tell our stories, but work together to forever change how Americans respond to rape.  By stitching our stories together, we are creating and demanding public space to heal.” 

Sections of the Quilt will be touring the United States, making stops all around the country for quilting workshops and ending in Washington DC. At each stop, participants will add their own stories, stitching them together to spell the words “not alone” in a cloth over a mile long. 

Through bringing rape into public discussion, the Quilt will provide an avenue for the community and survivors to create a supportive connection.  This kind of support will being the discussion of rape into the public sphere and can help women to heal:

“The most common trauma of women remains confined to the sphere of private life, without formal recognition or restitution from the community. There is no public monument for rape survivors.”  – Judith Herman 

The Monument Quilt will create a site to remember and honor survivors of violence and, hopefully, to prevent the repetition of these atrocities. 

FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, the group behind The Monument Quilt, is an activist group which has used a number of creative forms of protest and outreach to upset rape culture and to promote a culture of consent.  Of course having a discussion about rape culture is hard—nobody wants to see how they are implicated—but only when we respond to these types of groups and face the reality of sexual violence can the culture of empowering and pleasurable sex overpower that of coercive and violent sex. 

FORCE received national attention for their viral “Pink Loves Consent” Victoria Secret stunt, in which they, pretending to be Victoria’s Secret, created and promoted consent-themed underwear. They conducted a similar prank more recently when they had Playboy ‘release’ a guide to safe sex after parties called “The Ultimate Guide to a Consensual Good Time”. They have also projected “RAPE IS RAPE” onto the US Capitol Building and floated a survivor’s poem on the reflecting pool on the National Mall.  

I’m particularly excited about their The Monument Quilt because it connects with the idea of women’s history.  When I think of quilting I think of two things: the restriction of women to the domestic world and the rise of DIY projects.  We have brought attention to the problems inherent in the relegation of women to the home and, though we are not completely free from gendered assumptions of female domesticity, we have changed our society to the point that it is possible for women to work in the public world.  Now, some women are reclaiming the domestic in a less oppressive way by embracing DIY projects. In a similar way, if we can remove the oppression from sex, which manifests in the form of rape and abuse, then we will enable women to reclaim sex in an empowered, enthusiastic, and consensual way. Everybody wins!  


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