The fabric art above was made by a young woman who was 16 years old when she was abducted, raped, beaten, and held captive in Congo. She became pregnant and gave birth. Because the parents of this girl knew that the shame and stigma of what had happened would fall on them, even though it was their daughter who was the victim, they joined with the rapist’s family in urging the girl to marry him. She refused. Her abductor’s family took her child, but she herself managed to escape. While staying at a center for other young women who have similar stories, she created this story cloth.
Trauma like that suffered by these young women, who are no longer welcomed back home even by their own families, is sometimes said to be “beyond words.” For that reason, several centers are offering fabric and thread as a means by which they can express the inexpressible.
Writes Rachel A. Cohen, founder and director of the Common Threads projects, “The aim is not to simply disclose one’s story, but ultimately to experience those stories in a new way: free of shame, self-blame, survivor guilt and self-hate.” Read Cohen’s article and see more fabric art by survivors in the Washington Post.

Trebbe Johnson
Trebbe JohnsonFounder
Trebbe is the author of The World Is a Waiting Lover and 101 Ways to Make Guerrilla Beauty. Her new book, Radical Joy for Hard Times: Finding Meaning and Making Beauty, will be published in Fall 2018 by North Atlantic Books. Her articles about people’s emotional and spiritual relationship with nature have appeared in Orion, Sierra, Ecopsychology, The Ecologist, The Nation, Harper’s and other magazines. She lives with her husband, Andrew Gardner, in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, a region currently under exploitation by natural gas companies.

Image Credit:

  • Fabric Story: Common Threads Projects

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