In light of the #MeToo movement, I thought I would dig up the proposal for this museum and work it into a blog. Reading through the documents, I have decided to just put them up, as they were written thirty years ago.
So… direct from 1988, The Women’s Rape Museum
Introduction to the Proposal
I feel that we women have allowed men to establish the terms of debate on the subject of war, and in allowing them to define “war” in terms of military campaigns between nationalities, we forfeit our own experience.
Andrea Dworkin points out that in the US, only seven women out of a hundred will not experience sexual assault in her lifetime. Estimates for child sexual abuse for girls run between 30 and 40%. Women’s art, culture, history, and spiritual traditions are largely censored in most parts of the world. Certainly our values are not prioritized by governments who are run by men and tokenized women. We are, in effect, all colonized by the foreign and hostile culture of men. We are controlled psychologically by images which show women as perpetual victims of sexual terrorism.
The reactions of individuals and organizations to the Women’s Rape Museum prospectus was instructive, to say the least. It is as if each woman has hundreds of examples of domination and terrorism in her memory - each hermetically sealed. When a woman begins to unwrap these experiences and allow her brain to form synapses between them, she becomes terrified of the conclusion: This is a war.
It is my belief that until women seize the definition of war and begin to confront it in terms of our own experiences with male dominance and sexual aggression, then the more aggressive expressions -i.e. the military campaigns, phallic missiles, mass rapes, etc. - will continue to increase, while women wear buttons, join male-dominated peace organizations, and in general adopt strategies which have proved ineffectual throughout history.
And finally, I want to make a point about veterans. This is another word that men have appropriated. According to male definitions of war, there are very few women veterans. When women redefine “war,” most of us will achieve the recognition and status of veterans. This identity would require a radical restructuring of our experiences, giving meaning to our suffering and establishing a bond, instead of a barrier, to intimacy between women. The current vocabulary for rape is one of individual shame and confusion. When the rape victim understands that she is a veteran, she suddenly has access to a rich tradition of activism, authority, and respect within her community
The Myths about Rape: This would be the first exhibit to greet the visitor to the Memorial. This exhibit would challenge immediately the myths about who gets raped and who does the raping.
If Someone You Know Has Been Raped: This is a display of “do’s” and “don’t’s” for friends and family of victims. Well-meaning attempts to make light of the event or to encourage the victim to get on with her life often result in permanent alienation at a time when the victim needs support.
Reporting Rape: the Legal Steps: This is a fifteen-minute film about the procedures a woman can expect if she chooses to report the rape. The film will show a hypothetical rape victim from the time she contacts a friend about the rape, through the process of reporting at the police station, the medical examination, and her return home.
Women And Weapons: This is a display case of weapons which women might choose to carry. The display carries information about the advantages and the drawbacks to the various guns and sprays, and the laws that pertain to obtaining and carrying them.
Self-defense Strategies: This is a live demonstration/workshop offered at set times during the hours the memorial is open.
The History of Rape Laws in The U.S.: (or other host country) - This exhibit would be a wall mural with a time line depicting the changes in rape laws and landmark cases in the Memorial’s host country.
Historic Rape Resisters: This display would have pictures of women who fought back, physically or legally against their abusers. Visitors could press a button to hear the courageous accounts of women like Joan Little, Phoolan Devi, Inez Garcia , and Dr. Elizabeth Morgan.
The Burning Time: This would be a display about the genocide of nine million women in Europe during the Middle Ages. The exhibit would show the implements of torture, excerpts from the Malleus Malefactorum, and trial transcripts and narratives of women who were murdered.
Religion and Rape: Representation of rape in the Bible, the Koran, and other religious writings. The priesthood child-rape epidemic.
The Medical Profession and Rape: The history of medical misogyny, and especially the misdiagnosis of PTSD in survivors of rape, especially child rape. The cover-up of incest by theories of "Oedipal" and "Electra" complexes, misdiagnosis of venereal disease in children, and pathologizing of victims.
War And Rape: This display will focus on recent and current wars. This display will document the rape of women in Vietnam, the mass rape/suicides of women in Bangladesh, the Japanese "comfort women,” and the rapes of women in Bosnia. Rape as a method of torture. "Ethnic cleansing." Rape in the military and the denial of benefits to survivors of Military Sexual Trauma.
Trafficking and Prostitution: Historical and current. Paid rape.
Pornography: Statistics about the industry. The harm of pornography. The teaching of rape and the propagation of rape culture.
The Art of Survivors: This display would include samples of the work of artists like novelist Virginia Woolf, painter Artemisia Gentileschi, and poet Chrystos.
The Culture of Control: This is a display of articles used for the cultural control of women. It would include traditional foot-bindings from China, the chador worn by Islamic women, chastity belts from the Middle Ages, high-heeled shoes, boned corsets, and various styles of dress (hoop skirt, hobble, mini-skirt, etc.) that reflect a cultural control of women. This display would also include the implements used to excise the clitorises and infibulate the vaginas of women in Africa.
Rape Survivors' Library And Resource Center: This would be a reference library with a reading room for women who want to read about some aspect of sexual aggression towards women. The librarian could refer visitors to other legal and therapeutic agencies, both in the community and internationally.
Counseling Room: The Women's Rape Memorial would have a trained therapist on staff who could respond to requests for help from visitors who are experiencing emotional distress during their visit to the Memorial. This therapist would be able to provide references for legal advice or therapy.
The Rape Narrative Archive: Women who visit the Memorial may have the opportunity of writing or telling their story on tape in privacy and leaving it in the archives of the Memorial as a testimony to their own personal courage as a survivor. They may or may not choose to make the narrative anonymous or to have their story available to other visitors to the Memorial. Testimonies will be preserved and valued without judgement. The survivor's story, in her own words, is accepted at the Women's Rape Memorial.
The Ritual Fire: There will be a fire that burns perpetually where rape survivors can bring clothing or other artifacts associated with the violation and throw them into the fire.
The Rape Survivor's Memorial Garden: This will be a quiet garden area where survivors and their friends and family can come and pay tribute to the courage of the women and children who have been raped. The garden provides a place for leaving poems, photographs, and flowers.