Quilt Exhibition Increases Awareness of Sexual Assault

An upcoming exhibition of quilts at St. Bonaventure University’s Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts aims to comfort victims of sexual assault while focusing on the need to create safer environments for all.

“Discomforters,” an exhibition of quilts by fiber artist Ruta Butkus Marino, former curator at the Quick Center, opens Monday, April 1, and runs through Thursday, April 11. A panel discussion of sexual assault featuring Marino and panelists from the university and the local community will take place at 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 3, at the Quick Center. The panel discussion is open to all.

Words on Marino’s quilts are direct quotes taken from Project Unbreakable, a web-based photography project started in 2011 by then 19-year-old Grace Brown, the friend of a sexual assault survivor. Before disbanding the project, Brown collected more than 4,000 submissions from around the world, each photo showing a sexual-assault survivor holding a poster with a quote by his or her attacker, or the quote of an ignorant or insensitive person told of the assault.

Her mission, said Brown, was to “increase awareness of the issues surrounding sexual assault, child abuse and domestic violence, and encourage the act of healing through art.”

Marino’s mission is the same with her “Discomforters” exhibition. As the words on her quilts testify, sexual assault is gender-neutral, race-neutral, age-neutral, socioeconomic- and status-neutral. The last quilt in the series, she said, is created around the “shocking statistic” that one in five women will experience sexual assault of some kind in her lifetime.

“My hope is that these quilts honor the voices of too many of us and help reduce, if not eliminate, the necessity of others having to tell similar stories,” said Marino. “I started making these quilts in 2015, long before the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements empowered thousands and gave hope that their voices were finally being heard.

“Thanks to the ‘Silence Breakers’ of 2017, more women and men are being empowered to speak up. The time has come to stop the cultural norms that have allowed sexual abuse to occur and to create safer environments for all people — at home, in the workplace, in schools and universities, in the military, and in society overall.”

Joining Marino as panelists for the April 3 discussion are Dr. Ashley J. Luedke, assistant professor of counselor education at St. Bonaventure, a clinical professional counselor and a licensed mental health counselor who works with teens; Dr. Jennifer Karash-Eastman, visiting assistant professor of Spanish at St. Bonaventure who has a graduate certificate in women’s and gender studies, and who teaches yoga as an effective therapy for children and adults; and Kimberly Chase, victims advocate with the Cattaraugus County District Attorney’s Office.


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