Anniston domestic violence shelter and resource organization 2nd Chance sponsored events at Jacksonville State University and the Anniston Yoga Studio to coordinate with 14 events statewide and many more in more than 203 countries. It was all part of One Billion Rising, a global initiative sponsored by the V-Day Foundation.
“I’m blown away by the sheer amount of people showing up and participating,” said Trace Fleming-Smith, an advocate with 2nd Chance and one of events’ organizers. “It shows to me that people are hungry for this change.”
Nearly 200 people are estimated to have attended the events in Anniston and Jacksonville. Each event lasted about two hours.
One Billion Rising, set to coincide with the 15th anniversary of V-Day, grew out of a United Nations statistic that estimates one in three women will experience violence in their lifetime. Given the current global population, the proportion works out to more than one billion women currently living today who will become victims of violence in their lifetimes.
At the local events, Jenniffer Whyte of JW Fitness Crew led participants in “Break the Chain,” an official dance choreographed by Debbie Allen and performed all over the world on Thursday.
The events, though aimed at bringing awareness to quite a sobering topic, were celebratory.
“Today is about uplifting and our standing together, side by side, to do something different to change the world,” said Susan Shipman, director of 2nd Chance. “So we hope we’re shaking the world today.”
The day’s events also included Anniston Yoga Studio’s Marya Bullock leading the dancers in yoga, a presentation by members of the American Indian Movement’s Idle No More initiative, a reading of V-Day founder Eve Ensler’s “My Short Skirt” and a recitation of the “Man Prayer” by male allies.
People who streamed in and out of the events had many reasons for rising.
Some are passionate about the issue. Some are volunteers. Some are survivors.
Melissa Davis was in a domestic violence situation for three years, but sought help with 2nd Chance.
“It’s hard to get back on your feet and learn to do everything on your own and not rely on a man,” she said. “So it’s helped me become more independent, and it’s showed me basically how to do everything on my own.”
One Billion Rising and other events that shine a light on the problem of violence against women are critical, Davis said.
“There’s not enough awareness because there are so many women who are scared to…take a stand and say, ‘Hey, look, you’re not going to beat me anymore, you’re not going to control me anymore,’” she said.
Shipman said even though women in the United States are lucky compared to many countries — some participants at risings across the globe risked their lives doing so — the statistics are still startling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 5 women has been raped at some time in her life, and one in four women has been a victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime.
Charlotte Berendt, another domestic violence survivor who sought help from 2nd Chance, said it takes a lot of time and counseling to recover from those experiences.
“Even after counseling,” she said, “it’s this hurt that lays on you, this feeling of trust — to be able to trust other people.”
At the Jacksonville event, Melissa Kirby shared her reason for rising.
Kirby was molested by her paternal grandfather when she was 10 years old. A student in the social work program at JSU, Kirby was called to her future career path to break the cycle.
“I’m going to focus on family and child welfare to protect children from the things that I had to go through as a child,” she said.
“I feel honored to be here, I really do,” she said of the global event.
Later, Kirby said talking about her experiences openly was empowering and that awareness events like One Billion Rising are critical.
“It’s very important for every woman, and every man too,” she said of speaking out about violence against women. “And for parents to teach their sons and for parents to teach their children. It needs to stop, period.”
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.