By Ekevara Kitpowsong
An expansive red quilt spelling “NOT ALONE” filled the field of City College of San Francisco’s George M. Rush stadium in Ingleside on the morning of May 6 to promote a new culture of open support for survivors of rape and abuse.
The Monument Quilt is a large collection of over 2,000 stories from survivors of rape and abuse. A project created by FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, a Baltimore-based creative activist collaboration that strives to create public healing space for survivors and promote a culture of consent.
“Because being survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence can be isolated experience, the message that we are not alone is something that many of us find comfort in,” FORCE co-founder Hannah Brancato said. “It is both comforting and same time it is sort of devastating when you really reckon with the number of people who are survivors who had experience sexual assault.”
The quilt has been displayed in more than 30 cities and towns across the United States, travelling more than 8,500 miles.
San Francisco is the last stop of the South West Tour. The quilt has been displayed in seven different locations during the tour and it will be transported back to Baltimore in a 16-foot box truck.
Stephanie Cassidy, one of the Monument Quilt drivers, said that transporting the quilt is very important “because it’s not just fabric, it not just thread, it is people’s lives, it is people’s stories and stitches in each of these is the essence of that.”
FORCE reached out to Leslie Simon of City College’s Project SURVIVE, a peer education sexual violence prevention program about bringing the quilt to the college. The Physical Education and Dance Department, Women’s Studies Department and Student Health Services cosponsored
“We chose the football field because it’s symbolic,” Simon said. “We want to say football players and other athletes can be allies and also we know that male athletes and men, in general, can also be survivors, or may be survivors of sexual assault themselves.”
None of the quilt squares looks the same; each 4’ by 4’ square has its own story and supportive message with the use of symbols, words, objects and colors. The installation took almost four hours with the help of about 50 volunteers.
“It only has to be 75 percent red, and you can make its red in many different ways, you can use paint, my class used paint, markers, felt and glued them on, basically they created a piece that is talking about what we need to end sexual violence so they added words: Accountability, Education, Respect, Communication and then we put it on a quilt piece,” City College instructor Shella Cervantes said.
Cervantes and 15 students from the Ending Sexual Violence: Peer Education class spent an hour making a square of white canvas filled with words written in red.
Stephanie Chassin, a City College student participated in this quilt event by sewing each heart onto her own scarf, one for each letter of the alphabet.
Chassin wore a long bright sheer red scarf with 26 hearts that covered her shoulders and back, just right below her silver white hair. It waved up in the air when the wind blowing.
“Each heart on the back resemble one of my friends who is a survivor,“ Chassin said. “I am a survivor, so I think it is very important for people to know that it can happen to anyone. There are ways to fight back if we try.”
Among other volunteers, City College football players Sean Duffy, Zach Masoli, Oliver Svirsky and Davin Lemon-Rodriguez helped set up the quilt.
“Having this message on the big field of City College is a powerful message to everybody, saying that we stand up for the women,” Svirsky said. “Everybody has a mother so I think that it relates to everybody to help stand for women.”
Lemon-Rodriguez thinks it is very important for men to get involved and help.
“It shows a lot of awareness, and hopefully if it doesn’t change someone’s mind, it will start a conversation, get them thinking about what they can do to help. A lot of tragic things happened to people’s lives so we should all come together as a community,” Lemon-Rodriguez said.