TW/CW: Discussion of child sexual assault, sexual assault, child abuse.

Dear Bitchery,

I want to tell you about an incredible public art project and public healing event – The Monument Quilt. It honors and tells the stories of survivors of sexual violence, similar to the AIDS Memorial Quilt. After 5 years of organizing, the entire quilt, made up of 3,000 stories painted and sewn onto red fabric, will blanket the National Mall in Washington DC on May 31 – June 2, spelling out the words “not alone” and “no estas solx.”

One of those stories is mine, painted and sewn into a 4’ x 4’ red cotton square. I’m going with my husband to see it displayed and my best friend is meeting us there. And I hope lots of other people will go too. Which is why I’m writing this. Because it’s cool and you should go if you can.

I was uncertain about asking SB Sarah if I could write about this for SBTB, since it really has nothing to do with romance novels. I’m delighted that she said yes because this blog is one of the places where I’ve practiced being more open about my experience as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Reading and sewing are also two of the things that have sustained me for most of my life, since I was old enough to learn both skills. So it seems fitting that I’d write about sewing for a romance blog.

I saw a display of monument quilt squares in Chicago in August 2014, during the Monument Quilt’s first city tour.

Cleo at the Monument Quilt display in 2014.

It was incredibly moving; I knew then that I wanted to make one myself and so I did. There’s really no way to distill into words how meaningful it was to me to work on my square. I’m a fiber artist and I grew up in a house filled with quilts and other textiles made by women I’m related to. There’s a certain type of love that comes through some handmade textiles. I feel it when I wear the sweaters my mother and grandmother knit or sleep under a quilt made by my mother or somebody else’s mother. And I put love into my patchwork square; love for myself, love for the other survivors in my extended family, and love for all survivors out there.

Cleo's cat, a white and brown cat, resting on squares of pink, red, and burgundy fabric
Cleo’s cat helping choose fabrics. Photo credit: Cleo

The Monument Quilt is organized by an activist artist collective called FORCE; Upsetting Rape Culture. I’ve been incredibly impressed with their work on this. I like that it’s a survivor led project. I like that they support and respect survivors of all genders, identities and orientations. l love that they’re using art to talk about and to create a true culture of consent.

Cleo's square, with offset stripes of patchwork fabric going from white and cream to pink, then red, burgundy, darker red, and black at the top it says dedicated to app survivors may all victims heal may all children be safe
Cleo’s Monument Quilt Square

I’m excited to be going to DC to see my square and to bear witness to the entire display. And I hope some of the Bitchery can make it, too.

– Cleo

Sarah: I am not sure I can communicate how touched and honored I am to be entrusted with this letter. Thank you, Cleo. Your square is achingly lovely, and I’m deeply humbled that you’ve shared it with us.

For more information about the Monument Quilt and the display, you can visit The Monument Quilt website. The quilt will be on display, as Cleo mentioned, May 31-June 2, 2019. Per the website, “this will be the only time the quilt will be viewed in its entirety.” There are links for more information, opportunities to volunteer, and options to help spread the word.

And finally, the folks behind The Monument Quilt and UPsetting Rape Culture asked if I’d add this information as well: “we are still working hard to raise another $100,000 and need all the help we can get.”

You can make a donation at:

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