The Sanctuary Project

James Wilcox's avatar James Wilcox

“Sanctuary of the Abused Child” is a small sculpture with a long history, going back to my senior year of college. It started as a personal reflection of my own abusive childhood and was only a torso with the blank mask. I kicked it around for a couple years before I came up with the configuration for the legs. I finally made a casting in 1985, about five years after starting. Back then, child sexual abuse was strictly defined by the media as, “the ultimate form of male oppression of women.” I started working with a small group of men advocating to change this misconception. We did public awareness presentations such as panel discussions at the Department of Family Services national conference and WGN’s Phyllis Levy Radio Show, a live national call in broadcast. I wrote articles for the Chicago Sun-Times including an interview/essay with the late Jeff Zaslow. We phone blitzed Oprah producers to include men. She did a show for men abused as children and I spoke briefly from the audience. I would have been next on the panel if there was another no-show. I brought “Sanctuary” with me but forgot it under my chair. That was in 1987. At that point I had decided to get on with my life and set advocacy aside to focus on work. Oprah then excluded men for 23 years until her much ballyhooed "200 Man Show" in 2010. During that time we had the Sandusky and priest sexual abuse debacles occurring. Too bad Oprah excluded boys from the conversation or they may have been found out much sooner. Media obsession with sexual abuse obscures the larger, independent issue of all child abuse. People have been misled to associate child abuse with sexual abuse. The majority of child abuse is physical, psychological or falls under the vague category of neglect. Sexual abuse actually occurs in roughly 20% of abusive households and almost always in conjunction with other layers and years of intrafamilial abuse. The Sanctuary Project is intended to bring awareness to that fact, as according to the CDC America is the worst in the industrialized world in terms of child abuse and murder. Yet the issue is absent from our social and political discourse. That needs to change. Re: “The Sanctuary Project” “Sanctuary of the Abused Child“, is the focal point of a public awareness project for children’s rights. It is the central component of an ongoing series of videos intended to begin a public dialogue. A website will provide good information, available resources and proposed legislation to protect children who suffer any form of intrafamilial abuse. The project is intended to be as fun and entertaining as possible, considering the issue really is the last taboo. That’s where the sculpture comes in. “Sanctuary” speaks volumes in silence, a universal language, intuitive to children. They respond instinctively with pensive curiosity and serious demeanor. “Sanctuary” provides a casual way to start necessary age appropriate conversations, whether “stranger danger” and “the uh-oh feeling,” or “that happened to me.” The video documentation of building a five-foot tall version of “Sanctuary” is a unique diversion and educational opportunity. The maquette will be digitally enlarged to 5’ with a thin application of clay. A complex rubber mold will be made with the final bronze sculpture cast from the original mold. Viewers will learn hands-on industrial craft skills while… say, hearing about target child abuse for the first time. The internet offers a world of new possibilities for public awareness. ArtPrize in Grand Rapids MI has become the largest arts event in the world because of a brilliant idea made possible by new technology. With livestream I can work on the sculpture at ArtPrize while carrying on a public conversation. Along with public responses I can gather signatures to petition for national legislation that will safeguard America’s children. “Demond’s Law” is a preliminary draft for such a law and is by no means complete. It will be on a large placard and the public will be encouraged to contribute suggestions and comments. A monumental version of “Sanctuary of the Abused Child” in an outdoor public location will be a permanent reminder of our most covert social ill. We have monuments dedicated to every manner of human tragedy and mayhem, but none for child abuse. I honestly think “Sanctuary of the Abused Child” will make a difference for abused kids. Just knowing someone cared enough to make it will let them know they are not alone.

Entry Details
  • Art form: Time-Based
  • Depth: 2'
  • Medium: Sculpture-performance
  • Width: 2'
  • Year created: 2018
  • Height: 2'