One billion people have been sexually assaulted or raped, an astonishing and shameful number. Yesterday, a goal of one billion people rose to protest this violence through dance, rallies, and other actions through Eve Ensler’s One Billion Rising effort. Stop Street Harassment was a participating group and I attended a rally at Farragut Square in Washington, DC, and happily met up with activists from several groups, including Feminist Peace Network, Fem2pt0, and Collective Action for Safe Spaces.
(Note: If you want to carry on the momentum from your One Billion Rising event, be sure to take part in a day of action on Feb. 19 to meet with local government officials to discuss ways to make our cities safer.)
Yesterday, I also had the opportunity to participate in an amazing guerrilla art project organized by the Baltimore-based group FORCE. I thought I was just going to be observing and then suddenly I was part of it, hoisting up the word “one.” I love the project and the message and think the words “I can’t forget what happened but no one else remembers” speaks well to many instances of street harassment that may remain with us for the rest of our lives, but no one else knew about or remembers.
“Giant styrofoam letters state “I CAN’T FORGET WHAT HAPPENED BUT NO ONE ELSE REMEMBERS” in the national reflecting pool. The poem, written by a survivor, highlights the isolating and silencing experience of rape in the United States. The action is a call to create a permanent memorial to survivors of rape and abuse.
FORCE, the group behind the action states, “We want to build a national memorial to survivors, because we want to live in a country that holds public and supportive space for survivors to heal. We want to build a national memorial to survivors because we want to live in a country that believes rape can and must end.