Sexual harassment shapes the lives of women. We are constantly adjusting our behavior to try to reduce it in ways that we shouldn’t have to, and we are frequently blamed for the actions of people who sexually harass and assault us. The effects of sexual assault and harassment on victims of all genders and ages are devastating. You know people who are survivors of sexual assault who just haven’t told you. We are everywhere, and yet we are silenced because we know the cost of speaking out. We live in a society that will frequently support and take the word of a perpetrator over a victim. As victims we are gaslighted, told that we don’t really understand the concept of consent and must have consented in some way, and belittled. The goal of our system is primarily to silence survivors and penalize us socially and in our careers for speaking up.
It can’t stay this way. We won’t let it.
“We Will Not Be Silenced” is a project that works to bridge that gap, by creating a space where survivors can share their experiences honestly, fully, and anonymously in a way that connects with and educates the public. Projects that tell survivors’ entire stories can be difficult for viewers to interact with because they are emotionally challenging. People tend to turn away after the first one. By breaking down people’s stories into small snippets, and using art, I make them more digestible while retaining their impact and frankness.
Each 6’x4’ panel is made up of 54 8”x8” squares that look like a quilt from far away, referencing the fact that women (who are the most affected by sexual assault and harassment) were historically relegated to the medium of fiber to share their stories, and reclaiming its power. I am the granddaughter of an avid quilter, and I chose a quilt-like appearance to invoke warmth, comfort, and belonging. Each square has a pattern I designed printed on it, and, as the viewer comes closer, they also see the text on each square. They have a raw edge, indicative of how my experiences with sexual assault and harassment have felt like cuts to my psyche, and they flutter out as people walk by, calling to viewers to read them. Color, pattern, and movement engage viewers so they will peruse the words.
The panels are created to be displayed right next to each other, filling the gallery space with a giant ‘quilt’ full of these quotes. Each panel is composed differently, and is a piece in its own right.
The project is designed to grow to tell the stories of thousands of survivors, as I’m financially able to add to it. Its purpose is to be shown in spaces all over, and to share the stories that have been entrusted to me.
Two panels have been shown so far in exhibitions. I also share the squares on social media.
Behind every square, there is a person who wants you to listen to them, understand them, and stand with them.