The Heart Behind the Sexual Assault Survivors Monument
I grew up in the Fox Cities and am a survivor of multiple assaults; the first time I was raped I was 14 years old. I spent years in counseling to help me heal and regain my strength. With that, a drive grew in my heart to do something for other survivors, but at the time I didn’t know how or what to do.
In 2009, when I began my teaching career in Appleton, students came and told me about their sexual assault experiences. Being a young teacher, they felt I could relate and understand – but they didn’t know how very much I understood. It was then my mission field was revealed – the youth and the community we live in. I felt compelled to educate our children and teenagers about sexual assault and let them know they are not alone. My school administration agreed that I could lead an assembly each year on sexual assault awareness. I now visit each middle school in the Appleton school district annually to talk with 8th grade students.I share my personal story so those in the audience who’ve had or will have similar experiences know that I understand how they feel. I talk about the pain and the emotions of sexual assault – and then move to the hope and healing that comes when we address the truth of what happened. Each year, I am joined by a panel of community experts who help support the audiences during these presentations.
I have also spoken at the Appleton Voices of Men annual events, been invited to lead business events staff development meetings, and spent three days in La Crosse presenting to middle school and community audiences. I also speak on college campuses. Each year, far too many students, staff, and audience members come to me after events in tears – telling me their personal stories of sexual assault. I have heard stories of indescribable pain from 8th grade students in our community. I’ve seen tears roll down the faces of adults saying “I have never told anyone in 30 years…” I have held survivors as they cried, finally believing it was not their fault and they are not alone.
As I continue to speak and spread awareness, I wonder, “What more can I do?” because I know what it’s like to feel silenced and alone.After years of hearing the pain of sexual assault in this community, I want to help raise community awareness to a new level – and do more to give hope to victims and survivors. I want to let them know they are not alone. I want them to have a public place to visit – a place where they can be surrounded and supported in hope.
Because of these experiences, I started the nonprofit Sexual Assault Survivors Monument Corporation. It took a lot of learning on my part, but my heart drove me and God gave me the strength at each turn to continue. Our nonprofit’s mission is: To be a beacon of hope and strength to victims and survivors – reminding them they matter – and educating the community so we can use our voices together to create change. We want the monument to provide physical space for safe conversation, reflection, healing, and strength.
We want community members to feel the monument is theirs – that they own it. That’s one of the reasons why we worked with high school students from Renaissance School of the Arts to design the monument. Teachers created a class on monument design, with the culminating project being this monument. Five student groups presented to us, and we took ideas from each group and pieced them together into the monument design we have now. We’re proud of what it has become.
As someone who has heard so many stories of pain and heartbreak from people in our Appleton community, this project is very dear to my heart. I feel I owe it to victims still struggling and feeling alone; to my students, past and present, who have cried in my classroom after school as they shared their stories of assault; to others who have shared their experiences; and to all the survivors in our community. Also, the many counselors and advocates in our community who work tirelessly to help those who feel broken find their strength and peace again - for them to have a place of reflection too.It’s important to spread the message so the Fox Cities can continue to grow in compassion, awareness, and strength together. This monument will let survivors know they matter, and it will remind the community that we need to be educated, aware, and determined to make a positive difference. It will shine light on our continued efforts to end sexual violence. I hope you’ll join me and the Sexual Assault Survivors Monument Corporation in letting survivors know their community supports them and stands with them.
We are working closely with the City of Appleton, which has agreed to provide space for the monument in the new Ellen Kort Peace Park if the campaign to raise the funds is successful. The monument will be built in Spring of 2023 when the park is developed. We have been given until December 2021 to raise an estimate of $65,000 for the cost of this project, but, with your help, I am confident we can reach that goal! (the budget is an estimate based on the conceptual design)
I humbly ask for your financial support to help us build the Sexual Assault Survivors Monument. Donations will go directly to the building and maintenance of the monument.
Please consider donating! Every donation counts and makes a difference! Thank you so much for taking your time to read this and supporting our mission!
The Symbolizm in the Design:
The pillars will offer messages of hope and strength and will include plaques explaining the symbolic aspects of the monument.
The top roof will be teal to represent sexual assault awareness. The roof will have a stainless steel art in the shape of a fire rose, which was designed for survivors of sexual assault and symbolizes unity.
An interactive piece will be centered in the back and include a quotation from Ellen Kort’s writings and an area for survivors and community members to share their stories, leave a flower in honor of a survivor, and offer hope to one another and the community. The teal survivor wall will hold a granite top piece, which symbolizes strength when we come together as a community. There will be holes in the granite that hold small steel cylinders for the flowers or stories that can be left in support of survivors and sexual assault awareness.
Benches will be covered in colorful mosaic tiles, each tile symbolizing a community member who has survived sexual assault. The benches will then show and honor a portion of sexual assault survivors here in the Fox Cities.