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Dancing against violence

Posted: February 15, 2013 - 12:06am
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Women attending the 'One Billion Rising' event at the State Office Building on Thursday raise their hands in support during Christy NaMee Eriksen's recitation of Eve Ensler's poem 'Rising'. The rally is part of the world movement to encourage one billion harassed and exploited women to stop suffering in silence and to strike, rise and dance.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Women attending the 'One Billion Rising' event at the State Office Building on Thursday raise their hands in support during Christy NaMee Eriksen's recitation of Eve Ensler's poem 'Rising'. The rally is part of the world movement to encourage one billion harassed and exploited women to stop suffering in silence and to strike, rise and dance.

People dancing in the eighth floor atrium of the State Office Building caught the eye of state workers during their lunch hour Tuesday afternoon, as they looked through their windows and lined up by the railings to see what was going on.

The dancing was part of the One Billion Rising campaign, which aims to “express outrage, to strike, dance and rise” to support an end to violence against women and girls, according to the organization’s website. Similar events were held in three other Alaskan communities: Ketchikan, Fairbanks and Ester, according to the website.

In Juneau, about 50 people danced to Destiny’s Child and Pat Benatar in between speeches from local figures calling for an end to violence against women.

“I’m here for all the people I’ve worked with and all the people that called me,” said Heidi Clements, 24, who previously worked as an advocate for women in crisis situations.

For small business owner Donavan Jackson, 28, one of the few men in the crowd, he said he was dancing for a family member who was a victim when they were younger.

“I hope next year to see a lot more people,” he said about the event. “This affects everybody in this city, not just the victims.”

This was the first year Juneau participated in the campaign. It was organized by the statewide Council on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault and locally by the AWARE (Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies) shelter.

Two-hundred-thirty countries participated in this year’s dance, according to the One Billion Rising website. The “one billion” reference alludes to the United Nations statistic that at least one out of every three women on the planet has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime.

Annie Whittey, the program coordinator for the Council on Domestic Violence, reiterated for the crowd the statistics in Juneau. According to the 2010 Alaska Victimization Survey, of every 100 women in Juneau, 47 have experienced intimate partner violence, which is defined as hitting, kicking, shoving, burning or other violence. And of every 100 women in Juneau, 35 have experienced sexual violence. Taken together, the two categories indicated that 55 percent of women in Juneau have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence or both in their lifetimes.

With such depressing statistics, it’s that much more important to speak out against violence, said AWARE prevention manager Ati Nasiah.

“We will not silent, we will not be indifferent,” Nasiah told the crowd.

Caren Robinson, one of the founding organizers of AWARE in the 1970s, lauded the One Billion Rising dance event for giving the issue of domestic violence attention in a unique way.

“It is unique and I love it,” Robinson said. “It gives it a really uplifting aspect to it instead of always kind of down.”

The presidents of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood addressed the crowd, as did City and Borough of Juneau Assemblyman Jesse Kiehl and AWARE Executive Director Saralyn Tabachnick.

Alaska Native dancing group Yees Ku Oo and Eagle Ravens performed a traditional dance.

“We can’t just let women and children be beaten and raped and die without standing up to say we know about you, we care about you, we want it to end, the violence,” Pattie Adkisson, a dance group member and one of the organizers of the event, said. “So dancing was such a creative idea, (and it) gives us a chance to speak out locally and be part of a world wide movement.”

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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