By NICOLE CONTRINO
On Thurs., Feb. 14, women and men from all over Fredericksburg came together in the Great Hall to stand up against domestic violence. Hosted by Empowerhouse and the University of Mary Washington’s’s James Farmer Multicultural Center, One Billion Rising set out to inform and empower women against domestic abuse with speeches, dancing, poems and pink and red balloons.
As the event began, Angela Willams, the Master of Ceremonies, started her speech with, “welcome to the revolution!” She then expressed how women in every country were standing up and dancing together on the same day.
Many women were given the chance to stand up and give “I Rise” statements, expressing to the audience how they found the power to stand up and “dance on.”
“I want people to know there are people out here that can help you with anything you need help with and support you to be successful,” said Alyssa Washington, an Empowerhouse volunteer.
In 2011, the Domestic Violence Resource Center conducted a study that showed that one in four women have been affected by domestic violence. Out of those women, 70 percent saw some type of violence before 25 years old. Although it may seem like these statistics do not touch UMW or the town of Fredericksburg, local statistics mirror the national standards.
“This event made me think about how we do not notice what is going on around us,” said Ana Martinez, a freshman psychology major. “It was definitely an eye-opening experience.”
“I am so moved by the women and men that work for Empowerhouse. Their passion was really infectious,” said Mendy Piers, an audience member who is majoring in human service.
Kathy Anderson, the executive director of the event, wants “to envision a world without violence against women and children. We are joining people across the globe for that reason.”
The mayor of Fredericksburg, Mary Katherine Greenlaw, was one of the women who spoke at the event about her personal experiences with domestic violence. Hesitantly, she told the group about the time she was in a destructive relationship that left her without self-confidence. She encouraged women to turn to their loved ones, because she had people around her to believe in her.
“I want them [the attendees] to take away the fact that they are empowered by 1 Billion Rising,” said Greenlaw. “Once you stand up against the bully, he is no longer the bully and can no longer affect you.”
Greenlaw ended her speech by reminding the audience that “there are more who are affected by domestic violence. For many people, this organization has created a safe haven.”