STATE COLLEGE — Artist Michael Pilato knows something about the anguish survivors of sexual abuse go through. His daughter, who’s 16, told a crowd of about 75 people Saturday morning that she was raped by two men when she was 12.
For the daughter, Skye Pilato, it was the first time she’d spoken out about it. And for her father, he unveiled a mural dedicated to people like her — survivors of sexual abuse and the alleged victims of the Jerry Sandusky abuse case — as a way for art to help in the healing process.
“These young people that speak out are our heroes,” said Michael Pilato, who grew up in State College and now lives in Williamsport. “She was inspired by those young people through this tragedy to do so.”
The mural, which is an enlargement of the original painting done by Pilato’s partner Yuriy Karabash, depicts a Nittany Lion wearing a blue ribbon for child abuse awareness that reads “Speak out” on one tail of the ribbon and “we will listen” on the other. The mural measures 16 feet by 12 feet and is affixed to the back of the Centre for Travel office on the corner of Calder Way and Hiester Street.
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It’s around the corner from Pilato’s well-known “Inspiration,” a 100-foot-long mural on the Hiester Street side of the Student Book Store building. It depicts numerous local figures.
Pilato painted over Jerry Sandusky on that mural on Nov. 9, days after the abuse charges came to light and rocked the local community. He said his daughter’s plight was why he removed Sandusky from the mural, but he didn’t make that known at the time.
State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham remarked at the beginning of the new mural’s dedication that it was a chance for community building and healing.
“We knew we were not immune to the ills of society,” she said, later adding, “It’s important to remember our integrity has not be destroyed by this.”
The Centre County Women’s Resource Center sponsored the mural and helped with its permitting process. Anne K. Ard, the center’s director, said the local community has been shocked by the charges, they feel uncertain about the future and afraid, and they’re angry at those responsible for the hurt.
“We’re going through an experience of what victims of trauma go through,” she said.
The mural and its dedication were organized by a new community group called Centre’d on Community. One of the organizers, Jens Thorsen, of State College, said the event was meant to promote healing, awareness and prevention of abuse.
A local American Indian elder of the Lenape tribe performed a smudging ceremony — a traditional ritual of purification on the mural. The lion depicted in the mural is a native symbol for courage and dignity, Pilato said.
Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616.