How One Artist Publicly Dealt With the Aftermath of Her Rape

Photograph by Isadora Kosofsky for The California Sunday Magazine

An artist named Stephanie Montgomery was raped at the LA strip club where she worked. Montgomery worked at the strip club to help fund her creative pursuits, and during slow times at work, she often sketched customers and coworkers. After, her manager and the rapist denied the assault took place, and the police failed to do more than collect a chillingly detailed account of the assault, so Montgomery used her talents and painted the grizzly story of her assault on a 48-by-14 feet billboard at the entrance of one of LA’s busiest freeways. Journalist Kathy Dobie tells Montgomery’s story at The California Sunday Magazine. Montgomery’s is the story of female talent getting thwarted, of male violence and female credibility, of men betraying their female coworkers, and of how little help there is for women to deal with the aftermath of sexual assault.

Stephanie came to realize she’d reached the dead end of a road she had never wanted to be on in the first place. Nothing was going to happen. No justice, just another rape, the world moved on. The #MeToo movement had opened up the conversation, sure, and it had also spurred men into hyperdefensiveness and aggression, but when the smoke cleared, had anything really changed? Where were the arrests, the convictions? Did a stripper have a bigger voice, a better shot at justice than she would’ve two or five or twenty years ago?

As the months passed, something boiled and wept inside her; she couldn’t live with the silence, couldn’t let the rape go unanswered or pretend it never happened, as she had first hoped to do. An idea began to take hold. She was going to paint something, something huge, something public, and call out the rapist, the strip club, the LAPD.

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