On Friday evening, the 22nd of January, 2012, during an art performance ceremony at Los Angeles Police Department’s Deaton Auditorium, I turned and introduced myself to the person sitting next to me: an adult, female artist living in Los Angeles. Though she grew-up in the Midwest with a Caucasian, Christian family, and I grew up in California with a Japanese-American family, we found we had a lot in common. We both expressed feeling vulnerable and unsafe anytime we have to walk anywhere: back to our car, returning home, being in parking lots, public restrooms or basically any place where we are alone and not safely behind locked doors.
As teens, we both felt sheltered by our families in that sex and violence were not openly discussed and it left us feeling in the dark about our understanding of what was normal and what to do when a situation became aggressive. Of course, we were told not to talk to strangers, but what if we were in danger of being hurt by people we knew? Often these situations seem unclear because 38% of rapes are by a friend or acquaintance and 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker. Even being pushed around by boys at school should not have been allowed.
Earlier that day I attended another performance event called “Storying Rape: A Cross-Disciplnary Conversation at the Top of City Hall,” where civic and community leaders met to discuss rape and what could be done to end it within 40 years. The very insightful “round table” took place in the Tom Bradley room, on the 27th floor, at the very top of City Hall in Downtown, Los Angeles. Television journalist, Ana Garcia moderated a panel that included Gail Abarbanel (Center Director of Rape Treatment Center), Aileen Adams (Deputy Mayor), Chief Charles Beck (Los Angeles Police Department Chief), Jodie Evan (Co-Founder of Code Pink), Julie Hébert (Writer and Director), Dr. Jackson Katz, Professor Rose Monteiro and Dr. Francesca Polletta. Also in attendance were other activists, artists, cultural leaders and invited social media journalists (myself included), who posted live Tweets, photos, videos and blog updates to concurrently share impressions with the public. (Discussion: @3WeeksInJan.)
These experiences were 2 of the 30 progressive events choreographed by Suzanne Lacy as part of Pacific Standard Time’s Performace and Public Art Festival for her work, Three Weeks in January, a re-investigation of the issues of rape and violence against women. She initially brought these concerns into the public dialogue with her 1977 work, Three Weeks in May. Lacy, an artist, author, Chair of the Graduate Public Practice Program at Otis College of Art and Design and long-time activist in the feminist movement, has spent over 40 years addressing violence against women through education, innovative social artwork and collaborations with community groups.
Experiencing these public art works, participating in the performances and meeting other women leaders and roles models affected me so deeply that I will probably look back to that day as a marker in my own personal transformation. Though I have been attacked and stalked on several occasions, (a few of which I now realize could have been deadly), I never reported any of these incidences. Looking back, I realize how irresponsible it was because not only did I allow the perpetrators to remain hidden and free to possibly commit further violent acts, it also meant that I was not standing up in support for the other victims.
As discussed in both the City Hall conversation and the Deaton Hall ceremony, rape is often not openly discussed because people are afraid of social and cultural stigmas and the labeling often affects relationships with partners, families, friends, schoolmates, co-workers and neighbors, but in order to identify and address the issues, not to mention prevent the attackers from committing further violent crimes, we must break the silence and report all incidences. “I KNOW SOMEONE, DO YOU?” “I have been attacked, have you?”
Like the original 1977 piece, the current work also included a map outside of the Los Angeles Police Department marked with recordings of rapes and sexual assaults of the three weeks from January 9 to February 1, 2012. An audio piece (created by artist, Bruno Louchouarn) accompanied the map and featured voice testimony of survivors. Their moving personal accounts echo the narrative that had been discussed during the City Hall panel. Rape is not so much a sexual act as it is a violent act of forcing control onto another individual. The victims say that they wish they could have prevented it.
The numbers are stark: although the City of Los Angeles has benefitted from lower overall rape and crime numbers, those numbers are increasing in other parts of the country and further, rape of younger women is trending up. According to the Department of Justice, 1 in 6 women in the U.S. experiences rape or attempted rape during her lifetime, but according to the American Medical Association, rape and sexual violence is the most under-reported violent crime and appoximately 60% of rape and attempted rape are never reported.
What that means is that every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assulted, but 15 of the 16 rapists will never spend a day in jail. (RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.) Disturbingly, 22% of reported rape victims are under 12 years of age; 54% of victims are under 18 years and 83% are under 25 years. 7% of girls grades 5-8 and 12% of girls grades 9-12 are victims of sexual abuse.
Documenting victim’s stories is one of the most powerful ways for changing attitudes and policies against rape and it is the first step in identifying the problems for working together to make our neighborhoods and communities safer. With statistics of 1 in 6 women being affected and an estimated 60% more that remain undocumented, it means that everyone knows someone that has been hurt. Remaining silent passively allows the cycle to continue and not actively taking steps means that the next generation of children will be affected too.
If I, as an educated adult in a country with civil rights, cannot stand-up to this responsibility, then what hope is there for young children without alternatives?
Women have been undervaluing themesleves and their role. Each One Matters. If each woman realizes how much she matters, then there is hope for change. We need to break the silence in order to stop this cycle from perpetuating. I don’t want my nieces and the daughters of my family and friends to become part of the statistics. If we don’t make changes in our community, it inevitably will affect them. Each woman needs to BELIEVE we are worth it and not accept less, not hide and truely realize that EACH ONE OF US MATTERS. Break the silence for prevention of future rapes and stand alongside the other victims so they are not left standing alone. RAPE ENDS HERE– with each one of us. (Discussion: #RapeEndsHere.)
Safety and non-violence is a right that women should feel entitled to. We should be able to confidently demand that physical safety be an expectation, rather than a theoretical ideal. As taught in a safety workshop, the most important part is our mind needs to believe that we have a right to our own safety and NO ONE should be able to inflict violence on us. If we truely believe we are worth it, we can find a way to defend ourselves.
Men also need to take an active role in prevention. Beyond making girls and women aware of the dangers, boys and men need to know that physically aggressive behavior is never okay. While rape affects women, men and children of both genders, 99% of the rapists/perpetrators are men so not only do men need to acknowledge this, but those in leadership postions would be remiss in not setting an example and providing training and intervention. Most boys and men are exposed to physical aggression through sports, video games, film, television, pornography and other cultural and social “norms.” Some groups, like Men Can Stop Rape, are addressing this issue and encouraging peer support on college campuses to prevent situations that could lead to rape or violence against women. Co-founder of the Mentors In Violence Prevention, Dr. Katz, writes and educates men about prevention: 10 Things Men Can Do to Prevent Gender Violence.
The artfully assembled components of Three Weeks In January was Lacy providing our city with a platform to investigate the current status of rape, share the information amongst groups and communities throughout Los Angeles and engage leaders, educators, activists and the public to participate in critical conversations and actions towards ending rape locally and globally. (Discussion: @BillionRiseLA.)
I have been trying to honor the lives of all the women that have helped me throughout my life, including my mother and grandmothers, and I’ve felt that part of that would be by doing the best with my own life and contributing back in some way. Friday was a proud moment. I looked around me and I was surrounded by the leadership of so many strong women that had not only broken the silence and endured, but succeeded. Now I was being given an opportunity to learn and positively contribute for the sake of the next generation of women.
Official Site: THREE WEEKS IN JANUARY: END RAPE IN LOS ANGELES
Follow: @3WeeksInJan, @BillionRiseLA, #RapeEndsHere
Community Partners & Resources:
Open admittance of RAPE must be supported 2 stop it: 1 of 6 or 4 of 6 women are victims (various reports) but few come forward @3WeeksInJan
If leaders are not actively involved in education & prevention of RAPE, they are failing in their role as teachers & coaches @3WeeksInJan
Addressing men’s culture & behavior is part of prevention- Men that have been violated are more likely to continue the cycle @3WeeksInJan
Women & men are RAPE victims of men’s violence- What responsibility do men have in challenging their peers? Passivity is also allowing it
Defining RAPE- the label & categorization of the act is debated, so that in itself is an important issue to address for change @3WeeksInJan
99% of RAPES are by men- prevention is often a wish of victims, so what is being done by men to address, educate & prevent? @3WeeksInJan
http://twitvid.com/B8M4M – Three Weeks In January: End Rape in Los Angeles, a new work of public performance art by artist Suzanne Lacy
Long history of women’s motives being questioned & rather that using “Victim” they are referred to as the “accuser” in RAPE @3WeeksInJan
When passively or ambiguously discussing RAPE- it “erases” the act by not using language 2 address that 99% of acts are by men @3WeeksInJan
Documenting victim’s stories is one of the most powerful ways for changing attitudes and policies against RAPE @3WeeksInJan
Even if we “harden the target” & reduce women from being targets, instead, How can we reduce the perpetrator’s from committing the act?
Should we stop labeling RAPE as a “sexual act” or more as a an act of violence? @3WeeksInJan
Journalist Ana Garcia, an award-winning investigative reporter for NBC4 LA, leads the conversation with civic & community leaders about rape
LIVE Three Weeks In Jan Follow the Cross-Disciplinary Conversation @3WeeksInJan -ninety-minute conversation w/ nine civic & cultural leaders
http://twitvid.com/HONBY – Storying Rape: A Cross-Disciplinary Conversation at the Top of City Hall: A ninety-minute private conversation wi
http://twitvid.com/IY1O6 – THREE WEEKS IN JAN Storying Rape: A Cross-Disciplinary Conversation at the Top of City Hall Taking place high ato
Performance Art Mobilizes to End Rape in Los Angeles: http://www.threeweeksinjanuary.org/
FRI: Panel & Candlelight Ceremony for 3 Weeks In January: new work by artist Suzanne Lacy – following up on her 1977 work, 3 Weeks in May.
Join Suzanne Lacy to Demand that #RapeEndsHere: PST public art & performances work – Three Weeks in January – http://blogs.getty.edu/iris/join-suzanne-lacy-to-demand-that-rape-ends-here/
Start’s Thursday- Three Weeks in January, Suzanne Lacy’s new art work: http://www.threeweeksinjanuary.org/ (See the 1977 wk at MOCA http://www.moca.org/black_sun/artwork/suzanne-lacy-three-weeks-in-may-1977/)
New work by LA artist Suzanne Lacy in following with her original 3 Weeks in May (1977 wk on view at the MOCA Geffen): http://www.threeweeksinjanuary.org/