The “Break the Chain” dance symbolized victims taking steps to end their own and others’ physical and sexual abuse.

1 Billion Rising: Crowd vows to ‘Break the Chain’ of violence, sexual abuse

February 15, 2017
Santa Paula News

Violence was decried, women and — in turn — their children empowered and vows made to “Break the Chain” of physical and sexual abuse at Saturday’s 4th Annual One Billion Rising event.

Held in the packed Community Center, p2articipants had prepared for weeks for One Billion Rising, a worldwide event where women tell their stories, dance and speak out for justice while demanding an end to gender-based violence.

Saturday’s program was in Spanish with simultaneous English translation via headsets so all could understand emcee Georgina Garcia as she introduced speaker after speaker and told of the dozen or so social service providers that has displays for outreach.

The Rev. Jenny Crosswhite, also Santa Paula’s Mayor, welcomed the crowd noting that the City of Santa Paula was cosponsoring the Santa Paula Ministerial Association event that has been moved from its original venue just a few days before.

Also attending were Councilmen Martin Hernandez and John Procter, the latter providing the sound system.

“This gathering is very important to me and I’m very, very happy to have everyone here,” said Crosswhite. “This is our fourth year, each better than before, that gives us the opportunity,” to share stories, seek services and learn about the impacts of physical and sexual abuse.

Garcia, who is with the countywide Coalition for Family Harmony, noted that a Healing Room overseen by Pamela Fuller was offering mini-massages and meditation for those needing it. Acclaimed harpist Xavier “Big X” Montes entertained with soothing melodies as the crowd looked at the aprons decorating the venue.

With an estimated 1-billion women and children being abused throughout the world, “This is a very global issue,” said Garcia.

Lideres Campesinas (The Apron Project), said Arcelia Aquilera, symbolically reflects the organization’s mission to strengthen the leadership of Latina women, economically and culturally while combating domestic violence.

The group offers classes, referrals and monthly meetings; to join one must attend three consecutive meetings. 

Apron exhibits have also centered on pesticide use in fields and sexual harassment experienced by farmworkers who wear tied jackets around their waists to ward off assault. 

Garcia said the Coalition for Family Harmony is “dedicated to ending violence against women” including sexual abuse, 76 percent that occurs within the family circle.

Rocio Teyo told of her own experiences of abuse ranging from emotional to physical to sexual. And, she noted, such abuse often moves on to children in the household.

She spent 12 years in therapy to change her own pattern of being with abusers and still attends support meetings, although “Now I know happiness” with a husband who cherishes her.

Garcia told the crowd that abuse knows no economic or social barrier, as “It doesn’t matter where you were raised or your gender.”

She introduced Elvia Hernandez of Proyecto Esperanza (Project Hope), which operates out of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church offering counseling, referrals and other services working with the Ventura County Public Health Care Agency. Meetings involving children are held at First 5.

“Cultural intimidation” to not discuss such things is often a barrier to seeking help until it is almost too late as demonstrated by a woman who contacted Project Hope who was afraid if she returned home she would be murdered.

Hernandez said the children were picked up from the home and all given a safe haven. 

Overcrowded housing, it was noted, is often a gateway to child abuse.

Maria Jimenez, another abuse survivor, covered her face with a red scarf as she told of being sexually abused at 9 years old, as an adult suffered through 25 years of physical and sexual violence. 

“My own mother suffered violence,” said Jimenez. “Her husband killed her.”

Seeking help finally allowed her to “Break the Chain…due to programs and the people who have given me courage, to know my rights and value myself as a person I know I am deserving of respect and love.

“We must break the chain of the past so we can live in the present.”

Santa Paula Police are there to help said Officer Heather Van Hemert. 

“The police department is here for the community, for every one of you,” said Van Hemert. 

“We’re not here to report,” people to other agencies but to make sure “things are okay” if there is a problem. 

The community, said Van Hemert, “is very important to the police department. The police just don’t want to show up for the bad times; stop us anytime to ask questions, come by the station,” to talk to an available officer or even just wave hello at an officer.

“I don’t speak Spanish but domestic violence has no language barrier,” and happens in all areas and among all demographics.

“We will communicate with you…if you ever have a question get in touch, we’re here for you. Do not be afraid.”

Van Hemert noted she would stay after the event if people would like to ask questions or chat.

Poet Naomi Quinonez presented several poems including “Circle of Women” that spoke of women as serene beings with “half moon smiles” — she also recited several other works accompanied by Montes.

Crosswhite and the Rev. Maddie Sifantus closed the program with the latter also singing; a circle was formed before the “Break the Chain” dance performed by most of the crowd.

The Rev. Audrey Vincent, one of the event’s organizers, said she would sit the dance out as, “I’d like to see a senior version.” 

Those attending were thrilled when they left to see a rainbow from one end of the city to the other.

“It’s a sign,” said one woman who attended who asked not be identified. “A sign of hope…”

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