Dancers break silence on domestic violenceBy Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | February 15,2013Vyto Starinskas / Staff Photo
Dancers in Depot Park in Rutland join in a flash mob dance Thursday as part of “One Billion Rising,” an event to show worldwide solidarity for women’s equality and safety.It was hard not to get caught up in the music and the message behind the choreographed dance routine that broke out in downtown Rutland on Thursday.
Wearing red and black ensembles — many bearing the slogan “Got Consent?” — about 50 dancers conducted a choreographed routine in Depot Park to a song about ending domestic violence.
Most of the dancers were women, but a handful of men joined them as well. Some were victims of domestic or sexual violence, but many were students and professors from local colleges, including Castleton State College. Police from the city, Brandon and troopers with the Vermont State Police also stood with the dancers in a show of support.
“It’s about spreading awareness and trying to get everyone on board,” said event coordinator Marianne Kennedy, who is also executive director of the Rutland County Women’s Network and Shelter.
“People think of Vermont as a quaint place with cows but I don’t think people realize the severity of the problems we have,” she said.
In 2011 alone, Kennedy’s organization sheltered 26 women and 46 children — a number that represented only a fraction of the need since the shelter had to turn away 89 housing requests. The group also worked with 215 sexual assault victims and provided direct services to 2,115 women that year.
Those are big numbers, but not nearly as big as the number attached to the dance routine that played out in Rutland and other communities all over the world on Valentine’s Day. Dubbed “One Billion Rising,” the event was intended to show worldwide solidarity for women’s equality and safety.
The “billion” in the event’s name is based on the estimate that one in three women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime, Kennedy said.
“Part of the song they dance to is about breaking the silence to stop the violence,” she said. “That’s what we’re trying to do because this kind of violence can really stay hidden in a community.”
A woman named Karis, who was one of the dancers, said she understood all too well the silence that surrounds abuse that is as much about control as it is physical violence.
The 42-year-old woman, who asked that her full name not be used because the man who abused her is still at large, said it took multiple attempts to leave the relationship despite deplorable conditions.
“I was completely controlled,” Karis said. “I lived where he told me to live. We had no running water or working bathrooms. I wasn’t allowed to leave the property. I felt jailed but I was afraid to do anything that he wouldn’t approve of.”
It wasn’t until the man she was with began abusing her 1-year-old child that Karis said she found the strength to leave.
That was 12 years ago. Nowadays, she doesn’t consider herself a victim. Like many who escape abusive relationships, she considers herself a survivor.
When Karis danced Thursday alongside other domestic advocates and survivors, she said she no longer felt like a victim.
“It felt good,” she said. “I felt very empowered.”
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