Global Opinions

Some trauma really is unspeakable. So these women are sewing their stories, instead.

By Rachel A. Cohen
NOVEMBER 27, 2019
Washington Post

The cloths with this column were created by women living in Nepal, Ecuador and Congo and photographed by Rafe Scobey-Thal. Top: “Why I Had to Leave My Village,” from a Colombian refugee in Ecuador. The words sewn into the cloth translate to: “This is the story the cloth wants to tell.”

Rachel A. Cohen is a clinical psychologist, and the founder and executive director of Common Threads Project.

A 16-year-old girl was abducted, raped, beaten and held captive for months in Congo. She became pregnant and gave birth. In an effort to avoid the stigma and shame that this would bring upon her family and because she would not be eligible for any other marriage, her parents joined the perpetrators’ family in trying to force her to marry her abductor. Although she was expected to obey, she refused. The perpetrator’s family took her baby. Remarkably, she managed to escape and make her way to a center where she could access services for girls like her. There she created the story cloth below.

When asked about the colors she chose, the maker of this story cloth said, “I made myself look invisible, because no one really sees me.” Reproduction by Common Threads Project.

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