From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 2, the Guerilla Urban Art Force will stage an event at Confluence Park that promises to be beautiful and moving. The message is conveyed in the event's name, "I Didn't Ask For It: Rape Is a Crime, Being Raped Is Not," and in the way this truism will be symbolized -- via over 150 original flags (many samples below) made by people from California to London.
"For me," says GUAF's Bridget Hill, "it will show the power of the individual voice through the flags."
Helping Hill plan the gathering are two friends from her days at Heritage High School in Littleton; one is now based in Seattle, the other in San Diego. The three have always been close, but they'll be forever bound by a traumatic incident and its long, painful fallout.
"In 2000, a friend was kidnapped and raped," Hill notes. "The investigation never really went very far, and everything kind of moved on in a weird sort of way. But in 2009, a Denver Police Department cold case unit opened up the case again, because they made a DNA match. My friend worked with the cold case unit for approximately a year before the trail, and the district attorneys were really confident they had a strong case.
"I was a witness at the trial, and my friend testified ten years to the day from the rape," she continues. "And the alleged rapist's sister even testified against him. But after a three-day trial, the jury deliberated for two hours and came back with a not-guilty verdict."
Why? Because "they saw it as consensual" -- a determination that left the victim feeling traumatized all over again.
Afterward, Hill and her friends "got frustrated," she notes. "We felt like even when the system was trying to help, something wasn't working. And we realized that the only way we could deal with our anger was through the idea of community and awareness" -- the idea being that spreading the word about how wrong it is to blame rape victims may alter the deeply entrenched mindset represented by the jury's verdict.
So Hill and friends created the I Didn't Ask For It, No One Does Facebook page and a similarly named blog -- "and from that grew this idea of the flag project," Hill notes. "We encouraged people to make a flag with their protest, their comments, their emotions about sexual assault."
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Plenty of people did. "We've gotten 150 flags from the Denver area, from Seattle, from Portland, from Maryland, from Chicago, from Arizona, even from London," she enthuses. "I don't know many of the people -- that's just how it happens with social networking."
The flags will be displayed on Saturday to "create an even larger discussion and dialogue around victim blaming," says Hill, who'll be among those handing out literature and statistics about sexual assault at the event. Afterward, the flags will be transformed into another artistic statement. According to Hill, they'll be sewn together to form a robe to be draped over a life-size metal figure to be displayed at the 16th International Conference on Violence, Abuse & Trauma on September 9 and 10 in San Diego.
If attendees would like to bring flags of their own to the event, Hill says, "that would be amazing." In the meantime, page down to check out some vivid examples, along with more details about the event.
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