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May 29th, 2002 Rachel Beckman | News Stories
 

Breaking the Silence about Rape

     
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More than just coffee will shake Portlanders awake Wednesday morning. As WW went to press, P4, a guerrilla art group, was poised to stage an "art attack on rape," posting 200 3-foot-high signs throughout Portland, indicating dates and approximate locations of reported sexual assaults.

"We want to be annoying," says one member, who spoke to WW on condition of anonymity. "We're horrified by rape statistics, and we want other people to be horrified, too."

Last year, 370 rapes were reported in Portland, according to P4--more than one every day.

P4 consists of a graphic designer, two artists and a computer programmer. Although the twentysomething activists say their goal is in part to break the silence surrounding rape, they insist on anonymity. "We are protecting ourselves against potential backlash," says one member.

The group mounted a pilot project last month, but almost all the signs were taken down within 24 hours, because P4 didn't get permission from Portland Parks and Recreation. "It's mildly illegal," a P4 member said. "But we'd be willing to work with the city on this. We don't want to be vandals."

This time, in addition to doubling the number of signs, P4 included a map on each to clear up confusion about where the assaults took place. For privacy reasons, the data that P4 downloaded from the Portland Police Bureau website typically does not include addresses, because most rapes occur in residences. P4's maps indicate that the sign refers to the neighborhood, and not to an exact location. (For more information, visit www.pfour.org.)

Projects like these challenge complacency, says Amy I. Catania, the emergency-services director for the Bradley-Angle House, a domestic-violence shelter in Southeast Portland. "It debunks the stereotype that rape only happens in dark alleys when people see signs in unexpected places," she says.

 
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