Jennifer Brooks
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In a mosaic, broken pieces fit together to make something new, something beautiful, something stronger at the break.

There are mosaics at the new Survivors Memorial near downtown Minneapolis, the nation's first permanent monument to survivors of sexual violence.

"For far too long, the suffering of sexual violence victims and survivors has been forced into the shadows, swept under the rug," said Sarah Super, survivor, speaking at the virtual dedication ceremony for the memorial she and thousands of others worked for years to fund and create. "This memorial brings our suffering into the light."

People used to tell Super that what she needed to heal, after her ex-boyfriend crept into her St. Paul apartment and raped her at knifepoint, was "a good therapist and a lot of self-care."

"Healing was, in their minds, a private matter, something that I was responsible for, something they could walk away from," she said. "I was left to wonder: Can a rape survivor heal in a rape culture?"

The idea for a memorial came to Super in the first weeks after she was raped. As she spoke openly about the experience, she watched her story ripple out, touching other survivors, who reached back with stories of their own.

"Silence is not a neutral response," she said. "A lot of people say and do nothing because they fear saying the wrong thing. What we now know is that saying and doing nothing is the wrong thing."

The Survivors Memorial, in the heart of the city at Boom Island Park, is a reminder that survivors surround us, like veterans of some forgotten war.

We raise war memorials for a reason. Communities need a place to remember those we lost and comfort those who suffered. Ignoring such suffering would be unthinkable.

Every 73 seconds, someone in America is sexually assaulted, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network estimates. No one built memorials to them. Not until now.

In the center of the Survivors Memorial is a circle, ringed with benches and etched with smaller circles underfoot, like ripples in a pond. One survivor's story rippling out, offering comfort and courage to another.

A series of panels, created by mosaic artist Lori Greene of Mosaic on a Stick, tell a story of survival. A shattered survivor curls up alone in a dark wood. Then a second figure arrives to hold her as she grieves. More and more figures approach, until the survivor stands on her own, surrounded and supported by her community.

The memorial stands in a sunny corner of the park, the Minneapolis skyline at its back. Etched into it are words to remember, the next time a survivor shares their story.

We believe you.

We stand with you.

You are not alone.

This memorial is the country's first. It won't be the last.

"We in Minneapolis built a memorial to survivors of sexual violence, not the memorial. We want this to be replicated in other communities," Super said. There should be a memorial to survivors of sexual abuse in the lobby of the Children's Theatre, she said. There should be memorials in every Catholic Church.

Minnesotans watched members of the American Indian Movement yank a statue of Christopher Columbus off its pedestal this year. We watched a memorial to George Floyd rise in the intersection where he was killed.

The Survivors Memorial, she said, "is part of a larger conversation about whose truth gets told."

The Monday after the memorial dedication was Indigenous Peoples Day in Minneapolis.

A day our city celebrates not Christopher Columbus, but the people who survived him.

For more information, visit Boom Island Park is just off the Plymouth Avenue bridge at 724 NE. Sibley St. in Minneapolis.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter: @stribrooks