Palo Alto teen volunteers attended a community mural painting event at Mitchell Park Library on Saturday to stand in solidarity with sexual assault survivors and send a statement of united intolerance against sexual violence.
Palo Alto Teen Arts Council, a student-led and city-sponsored organization, created the mural in response to stories of sexual assault shared in January by teens and young adults in the community on social media. Palo Alto High School junior Alison Xiong designed the mural hoping to create a piece that would not only enhance the library’s outer appearance but also bring comfort to survivors in the community.
“Since the main theme was showing support, I wanted to create a design with symbols that could reflect that purpose,” Xiong said. “I chose to incorporate a pair of hands in an uplifting pose as the focal point of the mural and have flowers to allude to growth.”
Vibrant flowers and hands holding signs with messages for survivors adorn the mural, visible to bypassers outside of the library. Messages on the mural include phrases like “‘No’ doesn’t mean convince me” and “You are not alone.” At the center of the mural, a pair of open hands frame the words “We see you, we hear you.”
“It is a good way to raise awareness and make people feel like their voices are being heard and seen on the wall of such a major community center in Palo Alto.”
— Emma Cudahy, Teen Arts Council co-president
Participants aged 13-19 signed up for time slots online to prevent overcrowding and to ensure proper social distancing. The event ran from 12–6 p.m. with around 30 youth volunteers showing up throughout the day to help complete the mural. One of many artists contributing to the art piece was Teen Arts Council Faculty Advisor Cayla Ray-Perry, who hopes that their work will be an opportunity to hold challenging conversations in the community.
“Art is a really good way to connect and communicate with people,” Ray-Perry said. “This is a cause I care a lot about because it’s very personal for a lot of people I know.”
Council co-presidents and Paly seniors Anna Hickey and Emma Cudahy discussed the intent of the mural.
“We want to give an opportunity for survivors of sexual assault to express themselves creatively through this and to do so in a positive outlet.”
— Anna Hickey, Teen Arts Council co-president
“We want to highlight the strength of the survivors, instead of the tragedies that they’ve gone through,” Hickey said. “We want to give an opportunity for survivors of sexual assault to express themselves creatively through this and to do so in a positive outlet.”
Cudahy says that community activism is vital to creating a safe space for survivors to speak out, especially during the pandemic.
“There’s a lot of really good forms of activism that can exist on Instagram and other social media networks, but having a safe space for people to come together and feel like a community, especially during the pandemic, is really important,” Cudahy said. “It [the mural] is a good way to raise awareness and make people feel like their voices are being heard and seen on the wall of such a major community center in Palo Alto.”
Additional reporting by Akhil Joondeph
Below is a collection of resources for issues of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
The PAUSD Title IX Coordinator
Palo Alto Unified School District
25 Churchill Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94306
Paly Wellness Center
National Sexual Assault Hotline
- Free and confidential 24/7 support
- 800-656-HOPE (4673)
Domestic Violence Crisis Line
- 24/7 crisis hotline
Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse
- Provides crisis intervention, counseling and civil legal services for victims of domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Intervention Collaborative
- Individual therapy, groups, and classes.
I Wanna Know
- Sexual health information for teens and young adults.
Know Your IX
- A survivor and youth-led project of Advocates for Youth with resources, guides and support for students to end sexual and dating violence in their schools.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center
- Information and resource hub for all issues related to sexual violence and its prevention including publications and a searchable library.
- Sexual health information, resources and services for teens
- Text “PPNOW” to 774636
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)
- Hotline routes callers to local affiliated organizations. Online chat with counselors. A National database to help find local sexual assault services, resources and guides for “Talking to your kids about sexual assault”, how to reduce risk of assault, the procedures to report these crimes and the process for healing and recovery.
- Online chat: hotline.rainn.org/online
Rape Trauma Services
- 24/7 Rape crisis intervention hotline, advocacy and accompaniment; individual, group family counseling.
- Crisis Line: 650-692-7273
- General: 650-652-0598
U.S. Department of Justice
- Information for Parents & Guardians talking with children about sexual abuse and violence
YWCA Silicon Valley
- Rape crisis intervention, advocacy and accompaniment, individual, group, family counseling, sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking support, emergency shelter and legal help.
- Crisis: 1-800-572-2782
- San Jose: 408-295-4011
- Sunnyvale: 408-749-0793
AACI Asian Women’s Home
- Emergency shelter for women and children, case management, crisis intervention services, help with restraining orders, family law, and immigration issues.