Detroit rape survivor lifts up, empowers victims through art, poetry, support

DETROIT – Behind every one of Detroit’s untested rape kits is a story. 

For one local mother, she has two, but nobody has listened to Laquetta Travis. 

Travis has survived being raped twice and is looking for justice and to heal. 

Travis was raped in an abandoned house by someone she knew. She said the police blamed her and accused her of being a sex worker. 

The second rape was outside of an elementary school on Detroit's east side. In both cases, she reported the rapes, had a rape kit done and the kits sat on a shelf for years.

RELATED: More than 11,000 Detroit rape kits tested since massive backlog found in warehouse 10 years ago

Travis is now the mother of a 17-year-old girl and she is fighting to make sure what happened will never happen to her child. 

She shared her story recently at the 10th anniversary of the Detroit rape kits being found in August. More than 11,000 victims had their cases forgotten until the kits were found. The rape kits discovered go untested as far back as the 1970s.

Travis is pushing to raise awareness of the issue of rape, domestic violence and systemic issues that fail victims. 

She hosts meetings for people who have been impacted by the rape kit backlog and sexual assault. It's a place where victims can share their feelings, help survivors and try to change the system.

Travis created a mural made from 11,341 drops of paint to symbolize the backlog.

"I wanted to see for myself what it was like to have 11,000 of anything in one place," Travis said. "That's why I decided to do the paint drop mural."

Each paint drop represented a woman who had her rape kit left untested for years. 

Travis brought the mural to the eastside elementary school where she was assaulted and set the painting on fire before reading a poem she wrote.

A video of the event was posted on her Looking4Justice Facebook page in hopes her pain and her courage could help someone else.

"There's a lot of people that have come out of their situations and they're not in direct danger, but they still carry that brokenness," Travis said. 

Travis said victims can take back their power by being unapologetically themselves. That's why she's sharing her story and trying to help women battling the same problems. 

Travis is working to make a mural to honor the survivors of the untested rape kits. She wants to get 11,341 shells to make the mural and is in need of about 6,000 shells. 

For more information on Travis, her poetry, events or to donate seashells, visit her official website here or the Looking4Justice Facebook page here

About the Authors: