PORT TOWNSEND — April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and organizations across the Peninsula are reaching out to the community through art, events and social media.
In Port Townsend, the Dove House, a nonprofit that provides services to victims of crime including domestic violence and sexual assault, has hosted events including an ongoing chalk art project and seminars held in East Jefferson County.
In the past year, the Dove House has hosted an “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event, where men don high heels and walk with others to raise awareness for rape, sexual assault and gender violence.
This year, Dove House decided to do things a little differently and started a monthlong art project on consent.
“We felt like consent was a really good issue to focus on,” said Teresa Shiraishi, a therapist at Dove House and one of the event organizers. “We felt it was a positive way to engage the community on a really difficult issue, because consent is a good thing.”
A number of locations around Jefferson County have provided chalk and space for community members to gather and create chalk drawings on the idea of consent.
The Dove House kicked off the event April 1 with a mural in the parking lot made by Dove House employees. The Jefferson County Library, Port Townsend Food Co-Op, Quilcene Community Center, Skookum, Pane d’Amore bakery and Henery’s Hardware have all participated either by handing out chalk for people to use or providing a space for people to create art.
Community members are encouraged to participate in organized events or to create their own works of art at home and send them to Dove House via social media.
The Port Townsend Co-op hosted an event April 16 and will be handing out chalk to community members for the duration of April.
“We are a hub in this community and feel this is a pretty serious issue that needs to be addressed,” said Ian Carver, marketing manager for the co-op. “This is also a fun way, especially in an artistic community like this, to get the word out.”
The Quilcene Community Center hosted an event Wednesday but had to get creative because the rain made chalk art outside difficult.
“We’ve struggled with the rain every day,” said Bob Rosen, the community center manager. “We were hoping to get a good participation today, but of course it’s pouring rain.”
Instead, Rosen said, the center is providing paper and a local painting group worked on projects indoors.
“[Dove House] is just a wonderful organization and I can’t say enough good things,” Rosen said. “We’ve been working with them for several years now, and that’s our biggest contribution is getting people in need together with them. We’ve really been able to see the fruits of what Dove House does.”
Dove House said it’s seen plenty of community participation from people of all ages.
“There’s been some really great art from 2-year-olds to older people,” said Shiraishi. “Everyone’s been doing positive messages. We haven’t had to do any censoring or anything like that. The first one that sticks out in my mind is the one the Dove House volunteers made in the Dove House parking lot, but I really love seeing the youth work. That’s really inspiring to me.”
Shiraishi said they’ve seen plenty of submissions from local high-schoolers, including one from Chimacum that said “consent is punk rock.”
The final event for the Dove House’s Art for Consent project will be at the Boiler Room, 711 Water St. in Port Townsend. The indoor event will run from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday.
Dove House will be supplying art supplies, but Shiraishi said community members can continue to submit art throughout the month by sending photos to [email protected] and posting work online with the hashtags #radicalconsent, #dovehousesupportssurvivors and #startbybelieving.
On the other side of the Peninsula, the Fork Abuse Program is hosting a “Bounce Back” volleyball tournament April 30 at 9 a.m. at the A-Ka-Lat Center in La Push.
The tournament is already full, with 11 teams competing, but volunteers from the abuse program and Quileute Tribe will be there to promote their “Start by Believing” campaign.
“Basically when someone comes to tell you about abuse, you start by believing them,” said Nikki Knieps, a social worker for the Forks Abuse Program.
While Healthy Families of Clallam County isn’t hosting an event, it does have a free poster from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center for download on its Facebook page.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at [email protected].