ASHTABULA – A group of about 30 local women gathered in the gymnasium at G.O. Ministries on Feb. 28 to take part in a global event aimed at raising awareness of violence toward and exploitation of women as part of the Break the Silence – One Billion Rising event.
The One Billion Rising event was planned and coordinated by Homesafe – a nonprofit domestic violence shelter for women in the City of Ashtabula and Julie Wood, outreach coordinator at Homesafe, delivered the opening remarks.
“One in three women will be beaten or raped during her lifetime,” Wood said. “That's one billion women and girls.”
Break the Silence – One Billion Rising is a worldwide event with events planned in hundreds of countries – with this year's event centered around a choreographed dance for attendees as a form of protest.
“We rise and dance to express joy and community and to celebrate the fact that we have not been defeated by this violence,” Wood said. “We rise to show we are determined to create a new kind of consciousness – one where violence will be resisted and unthinkable.”
One Billion rising began in 2013, and that year local residents Jenny Velez Harris and her daughter Ruby Velez Morgan started the local observance in honor of a loved one who was killed in a domestic violence incident.
“My mother was inspired to do this because we lost a family member to domestic violence,” Velez Morgan said. “Women all over the world are standing up to violence.”
Ashtabula Count District Library Teen Librarian Marisha Sullivan led the attendees in the dance routine, which was posted online for them to practice at prior to the One Billion Rising event.
“Between Feb. 14 and March 8, women all over the world are going to be doing this dance,” Wood said. “The point is to bring attention to the exploitation of women.”
Several area nonprofits had set up tables at One Billion Rising to offer information on services they can provide women in Ashtabula County. Homesafe, the Ashtabula County WIC Program, the YMCA, Ashtabula County District Library, Family Planning Association of Northeast Ohio and the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center were all on hand to offer help.
“We must continue to rise, disrupt, connect and resist,” Wood said. “Let's take this energy and direct it locally towards concrete changes we want to see in our communities and cities. Let's rise and disrupt more creatively and politically. Let's dance more fiercely. Let's use this moment to harness more radical forms of creative and political resistance.”
There were 217 documented incidents of domestic violence in which a woman or women were the victim in Ashtabula County during 2015, according to statistics cited by Wood.
“We are living in a society with too much violence,” Wood said. “One in three women will be beaten or raped during their lifetime – every day one billion women are exploited.”
Pictured is Ashtabula County District Library Teen Librarian Marisha Sullivan leading a group of about 30 women and girls in a practice run of a protest dance during the One Billion Rising event organized by Homesafe and hosted by G.O. Ministries on Feb. 28. The event was in protest of violence against and exploitation of women.