On Thursday, April 4, members from the FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture collective came to Drew as a part of their Monuments Quilt project tour. FORCE was founded in 2011 by Hannah Brancato and Rebecca Nagle in Baltimore, MD as an art based organizational group that supports local and national causes against rape culture and sexual assault.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF MIKE MCCURRY AND THEMONUMENTQUILT.ORG
As part of FORCE’s public advocacy, the five-member team launched “The Monument Quilt” project in 2013 to bring together survivors of sexual assault. Since its founding, FORCE and its members have held 48 different quilt displays in 33 different cities. Drew was the second to last stop on the six-year tour which will ultimately conclude with a three day showing at the National Mall lawn in front of the Washington Monument from May 31 to June 2.
Drew’s showing was hosted in the Simon Forum gymnasium and could only hold a few of the 3,000 total quilt squares which, according to FORCE co-founder Hannah Brancato, would take up over four football fields worth of space. Events kicked off at 10:00 a.m. with an opening introduction from Brancato and Madison Mayor Robert Conley. During Conley’s speech, he announced that from now on, April 4 would be known as Madison Sexual Assault Awareness Day. Key in bringing the quilt to Drew were the members of the Drew Title IX Student Advisory board. One such member, Katie Sparks (‘21) said of the impact the event had on her, “ after hearing our amazing survivor speak, it immediately hit me and I cried for at least an hour as I walked through and read each quilt panel.” Camille Wilk (‘22), Cassie Allen (‘21) and Paxton Siegel (‘19) make up the rest of the Student Advisory Board, and it is thanks to their hard work that this event was possible.
Following the introduction, student survivors were invited to speak about their stories. The event concluded at seven in the evening following closing remarks from Brancato, her fellow FORCE member Charnell Covert and Executive Director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA) Patricia Teffenhart.
According to Brancato, the quilt was inspired by her sister Emmeline “Emmi” Brancato, who attended Drew until her death in 2005 due to a car accident. Following Emmi’s death, the pair’s mother Shelly Kapauff made quilts from Emmi’s clothing for each of her siblings. Like the other four collective staff, Brancato is a survivor of sexual assault. “Emmi taught me what it was like to be supported when I became a victim,” she said. Another one of the group's inspirations, according to FORCE community outreach coordinator Charnell Covert, was the 1996 “Names Quilt,” which was similarly displayed in Washington to promote awareness for the AIDS epidemic.
Last week at the New Jersey Conference on Campus Sexual Violence in Somerset, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced a series of forthcoming summits on campus sexual assault to be held on college campuses in all 21 N.J. counties. The announcement came as a response to a report done by the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault in 2017. The Coalition’s director, Patricia Teffenhart said of NJCASA's work “this is a social justice issue, and there is nothing within the fabric of our society that this doesn’t have some form of touch point with this work.”
“I was so honored to be able to take part in giving survivors a platform to be heard and believed,” Sparks added, speaking to the importance of the event. “Sexual violence is one that hits very close to home, so I was grateful to be a part of it all.”
For information on the Quilt, go to their website at themonumentquilt.org