“Three Weeks in January” art project strives to end rape in LA

I know someone who was raped. Do you?

imageCouncilwoman Jan Perry knows someone who was raped.

That is the loaded question that the “Three Weeks in January” public performance art piece dares to ask.

Rape is a topic that most people don’t want to discuss.

But when, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in five women have been raped at some time in her life, it’s no longer a topic that should be silenced.

On Monday, Councilwoman Jan Perry presented “A Community Dialogue on Ending Rape in Los Angeles.” Few media personnel and community members braved the rainy weather to make it to the Ninth District Neighborhood City Hall for the discussion, but those who attended were able to have a frank and intimate conversation about rape.

This event was part of the “Three Weeks in January: End Rape in Los Angeles” public performance art piece by Suzanne Lacy. Beginning January 10 and ending on February 1, “Three Weeks in January” partners with multiple Los Angeles student and arts groups, political organizations, and civic institutions, like the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

The art piece is located at Deaton Auditorium, in front of the LAPD in downtown LA. There is a huge map of Los Angeles where every day young men and women will stamp where someone was raped, according to the prior day’s police reports.

In a press release, Lacy said, “This project will mobilize young women, men, and an intergenerational coalition across the region to consider the next steps in a necessary agenda against sexual violence.”

imageTeenagers drew and wrote the first thoughts that came to their minds when they read the word “rape.”

Also at the art site is a bench that plays interviews of over forty different people who were raped or know someone who was raped. The audio is looped all day, every day until the exhibit closes.

The women and men who were interviewed are from the Downtown Women’s Center or the Peace Over Violence organization.

The audio is filled with haunting confessions, with women talking about “the first time” they were raped or about their friends who were impregnated by their own fathers.

One woman states, “Until it hits close to home, then it doesn’t seem real to them.”

“Three Weeks in January” strives to be an intergenerational movement, with several events already passed that were targeting young people. However, art movements like this can’t be the only place where youth can talk about rape.

Melinda Guillen, a member of “Three Weeks in January’s” project organizing team, believes that schools must become involved with advocacy as well. “If in high schools and in public school education, if you can’t talk about sex, then you’re definitely not going to talk about rape, “ Guillen said.

One event geared towards youth took place on January 20, where teenagers were able to discuss rape in a free environment. They were also asked to draw or write whatever came to their heads when they saw the word “rape.”

At Monday’s “Community Dialogue” meeting, Councilwoman Perry was shown what the teenagers had come up with.

imageCouncilwoman Perry looks at what teenagers drew and wrote about the word “rape.”

Looking at the words, Councilwoman Perry said that with the technology so many teenagers use, “They don’t always talk that much [about rape] when there’s a lot below the surface and a lot of information to be learned from them in their lives and their homes.”

She hopes that more teenagers come forward to talk about rape, even if it hasn’t happened to them before.

Before Councilwoman Perry left the meeting, she was asked the loaded question: “Do you know anyone who was raped?”

Without hesitation, Councilwoman Perry quietly informed everyone that a man that she knows was raped after being drugged at a bar.

He never pressed charges or pursued any legal action.

Learn more about the history of “Three Weeks in January” through this short video about artist Suzanne Lacy’s original 1977 piece “Three Weeks in May.”

Three Weeks in May by: Suzanne Lacy (1977) from LACE on Vimeo.

Download the full schedule of the Three Weeks in January events here.