A pebble mosaic honouring survivors of sexual violence was unveiled at a special ceremony at its location at the Fisher Street parkette Friday afternoon.
Hidden underneath the stones which form the six-foot in diameter monument are the names of survivors and personal messages of hope.
Brigitte Lebel executive director at Amelia Rising Sexual Assault Centre of Nipissing explained that the opportunity to honour victims arose during the design process.
“When we were putting the mosaic together, we had the opportunity to write on the stones because we were working from the bottom part of the mosaic so it would still be confidential," said Lebel.
"Nobody will ever see the names. Quite a few of us wrote the names of survivors who we wanted to honour. Some other people wrote messages of hope on those stones knowing that even though no one will ever see them, the meaning will still be there.”
Lebel says the mosaic is intended to bring the topic of sexual violence to the forefront.
“The topic of sexual violence is usually kept secret and hidden away in our country. So this is to bring it to the surface so that it is not a secret anymore and to help create conversations about sexual violence because the stats are pretty staggering in that one in three women and one in five men will experience sexual assault at some point.,” said Lebel.
“The number is even higher for Indigenous women and women of colour and women with disabilities. So, unfortunately, sexual violence has probably hit us all in some way shape or form, whether it is through us or someone else. We really wanted to bring that to the surface and honour those survivors of sexual violence and let them know that we know that they are there and we’re sorry this happened to them and hopefully by creating this public monument, it will create the discussions that need to be had in order to put an end to this problem.”
North Bay is one of several communities to have this legacy project built with the assistance of Red Dress Productions.
The Countdown Public Art Legacy Project was launched in 2016 after the Women’s Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew County invited the production company to take its vision and make it a reality.
Tristan Whiston co-artistic director of Red Dress Productions says it is a powerful and important public education campaign.
“Especially in smaller communities it is very hard to sometimes identify as a survivor of sexual violence because everyone knows everyone,” said Whiston.
“They wanted to do a project that made it possible for everyone to gather without necessarily exposing themselves, so we decided on a big pebble mosaic monument.”
Whiston says it is a great opportunity for all survivors, allies, family members, anyone who has been affected by sexual violence, anyone who wants to work towards a world without sexual violence, to come forward and to do something tangible.
“We’re going to connect more and more communities around Ontario, maybe eventually around Canada, maybe around the world to this idea that we can together, all of us, not just survivors come together and expect more of ourselves.”
Approximately 75 people from the North Bay community helped to individually place each stone in the mosaic.