Finding peace, strength and solidarity are just three possible outcomes of having a memorial in Peterborough to recognize victims of sexual trauma.
“Having a monument for learning about and giving respect to survivors of sexual violence is extremely important to our community because it helps us to inspire empathy and build resilience.”
Peterborough is among four Ontario communities embracing a public art-making project to build a monument to honour survivors of sexual violence. The other three participating communities are North Bay, Carleton Place and Brantford.
Being installed in the north end of Peterborough’s Millennium Park, the design of the pebble mosaic was developed by the survivors and their allies building the monument.
More than 50 people took part last week in helping the design team plan and lay stones for the monument.
It’s an important testament for survivors, says Lisa Clarke, interim executive director of the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre in Peterborough.
“Having a monument for learning about and giving respect to survivors of sexual violence is extremely important to our community because it helps us to inspire empathy and build resilience,” Lisa says.
“This monument will give us a place to mourn, to celebrate, to reflect and to take action.
“I hope that through this monument, we will build community understanding of the issues facing survivors of sexual violence, including missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people, as well as survivors of childhood sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, sexual assault and harassment, and intimate partner violence.”
Toronto’s community arts non-profit Red Dress Productions kicked off the Countdown Public Art Legacy Project, the series of pebble mosaic workshops to create the monuments.
The project initially began as a request by one sexual assault centre in rural Ontario to dignify the experiences and raise the visibility of survivors.
Initiated by the Women’s Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew County in 2014, and led by Red Dress Productions in 2016, the impetus was to create a work to mark the centre’s 25th anniversary.
Along with the support of Ottawa Valley Creative Arts Open Studio and in collaboration with 400 residents, they created four mosaics at that time in Eganville, Killaloe, Pembroke, and Pikwàkanagàn First Nation, Ontario.
Today, there is much anticipation for the four new works, as collaborating centres recognize the project’s deep significance.
“This monument might be a place where survivors name their abuse and reach out for help,” Lisa says. “This monument might be a place where survivors lay their abuse to rest.
“What I know for sure is that this monument will be a place where we can gather in solidarity, and that connectedness builds our strength.”
The four mosaics in the province will be permanently installed and unveiled throughout this spring and summer.
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