Photo by Hamil R. Harris
Photo by Hamil R. Harris

The National Mall in D.C. was lined Saturday with red quilts written by survivors of rape and domestic violence who collectively offered a message to so many who still suffer in silence: “You Are Not Alone.”

As the sun fell behind the Washington Monument, groups of women and men stood around the Monument Quilt, which represented the cries of more than 3,000 survivors who made a quilt to deal with their pain.

The quilt was spread on the mall from May 31 to June 2, and while walking between the panels, it felt as if one was standing over a bed and listening to the survivors cry out for help.

“I am a house ravaged by fire. I have been rebuilt on a structure that withstood the fire,” read one panel.

“Speak Up, Speak Out,” read another.

“When the war was over, others were set free but not me,” another said.

The quilt was the vision of one woman, Hannah Brancato, a Baltimore resident and herself a survivor of domestic violence. She began to share her story six years ago with others and they begin to organize others who ultimately created an organization, FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture.

“A lot victims of sexual and domestic violence see it is our burden to carry alone and it is treated as a private issue,” Brancato said. “By putting this in a public space, we are saying it is everyone responsibility to deal with this. We need to share this burden.”

Organizers said Saturday’s event was the culmination of a 33-city tour of the United States and Mexico, written in English and Spanish, that were stitched, written or painted.

Alexis Flanagan, one of the event organizers, said placing the quilt on the Mall “is a call to this country that survivors are affected by the rape culture. So many of us come from backgrounds because we are not being believed.”

Charnell Covert, a community organizer from Baltimore and professor at Towson University, said she hopes that the voice of Black women and girls is heard, “because often the voice of survivors is seen as white and middle class.”

Numerous poems and speeches during the event came from women young and old, Black, white and Latina.

“I used every tactic. I even said no,” said a woman named Isabel as she read her poem. “But you said you loved me. You called me beautiful. For a moment I believed you. I told you my dad was home. I even told you that I was a lesbian but you told me that you could change that. From then on I was scared of the teenage dream of having a boyfriend and going on dates.”

Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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