Pittsburghers pay their respects to sex-assault victims

It wasn’t permanent, but a monument in honor of sexual assault victims was set up Wednesday in Point State Park, prompting Pittsburghers to come and pay their respects.

Advocates for preventing sexual assault gathered at the park Wednesday around the monument, a massive quilt recognizing victims of sexual violence. The Monument Quilt, composed of roughly 200 squares showcasing the words of sexual assault victims, came to Pittsburgh as part of a 13-city tour to campaign to end rape and recognize victims in a public space.

Through the quilt squares, mostly red in color and spread out across the lawn, hundreds of victims spoke out about their experiences with sexual violence. Some of the messages addressed assailants; others talked more generally about rape or abuse. Most were anonymous, but a handful of victims signed their names. 

“Women should not have to apologize or be afraid simply for being women,” one square read. “Believe me,” read another.

For visitor Kayce Matthews, who is in Pittsburgh this week for the annual National Sexual Violence Conference at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown Hotel, the project elicited an emotional response.

“It’s overwhelming to see all these stories together and compiled in such a powerful way,” she said. “It’s important to have a space to bear witness to these stories.”

Force: Upsetting Rape Culture, the Baltimore-based activist organization behind the project, hopes to expand the quilt to eventually include 6,000 squares and display it on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. As they tour the country with the quilt, organizers hope to add to the project, from city to city, while supporting victims there.

“We hope it’s bringing to Pittsburgh a place where survivors can feel safe and have public support,” Rebecca Nagle, the group’s co-director, said of the display. 

Earlier in the day, advocates across the street kicked off the three-day National Sexual Violence Conference at the Wyndham.

The annual conference brings roughly 1,000 sexual violence prevention advocates to Pittsburgh, where a series of workshops will address topics including sexual assault on college campuses and sexual violence in the military. Several local groups, such as Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, will participate in the week’s events. 

Madeline R. Conway: mconway@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1714 or on Twitter @MadelineRConway.


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