Wax sculptures depicting melted assaulted rifles as a symbol against violence are seen at RADinc on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. The event was advocating for giving women a voice, especially in cases of sexual assault. (Ashley Morris/The Daily Iowan)

Artists speak out to break silence about sexual assault

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Sexual-assault survivors spoke out about their experiences in an event hosted by UI students titled “Now that we’re loud: Survivors Speak.”

By Sarah Watson

Sarah-e-watson@uiowa.edu

Survivors of sexual assault refused to keep their stories quiet on Nov. 10 through fine arts in an event called “Now that we’re loud” in downtown Iowa City.

The event, which took place at RADinc, 123 E. Washington St., incorporated a five-artist exhibit as well as four speakers who read poems and prose about their experiences with sexual assault. The exhibit will be up all weekend.

“Going along with the title ‘we’re loud,’ “ co-organizer Emmalyn Brown said. “We want to lend that voice to other people. We want people to share their stories, to be comfortable, and to acknowledge their pain and be able to not feel ashamed of what happened to them.”

Colorful, poster-style artwork decorated the wall, including empowering messages such as “We have the right to be heard” and “Our bodies, our minds, our power.”

“The art followed suit after,” Brown said. “The voice is the most important element in this.”

RELATED: Smith: RADInc is a needed space for local artists

One piece of artwork, created by

University of Iowa graduate Jessica Pleyel aimed to bring the problem of violence against women to light. Her work shows women volunteers melting wax assault rifles with domestic tools or breaking them apart with their bodies.

“We use domestic tools because these are the stereotypical feminine tools like irons, hairspray, blow dryers, waffle irons, those sorts of things,” Pleyel said. “Seeing this assault rifle be destroyed with feminine energy and power is really exciting.”

On display at RADinc was a video of the women and three colored canvases with the melted black wax, remnants of the faux weapons.

“It takes about 16 hours to cast a gun and every 16 hours a woman is murdered by her assailant with a gun,” Playel said.

Since she began the project three years ago in graduate school, Pleyel said, she’s given several shows in Iowa and hopes to expand her project beyond Iowa City.

Organizers Kalena Meyer and Brown started accumulating submissions Oct. 6, and by the beginning of November, the pair had about a dozen written submissions put into a “chat book” and five artists who submitted several pieces to adorn the walls of the community incubator.

“I’m at a point in my life where I’ve had the experience where — OK, I’m expressing myself in art, I’m expressing myself in writing, in speaking about it public,” Meyer said. “And it’s not that I’m past it, but since I’ve done that, I’m now at a part where I’m like, ‘How can I help other people speak out?’ ”

The UI recently sent a survey, Speak Out Iowa, to gather data about sexual assault on campus, and it has initiated other programming to address the problem, including Better Men Better Hawkeyes, a one-hour program put on by the UI Department of Public Safety to promote healthy masculinity on campus.

The same day as the RADinc event, a national news story broke. Comedian Louis C.K. admitted to engaging in sexual misconduct with several women after a report by the New York Times was published Nov. 9. Meyer said she thought that continuing coverage of sexual misconduct in the national media is a sign that it is becoming more socially unacceptable.

“We are in a media cycle that is going nuts over [sexual-assault issues], which is one of those things that it’s terrible that it happens, but it’s good that it’s at least getting some attention,” Meyer said.

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