Naper event supports global fight against victimization of women
By Susan Frick Carlman firstname.lastname@example.org February 14, 2013 4:10PM
By the numbers
1 in 3
Women who will be beaten or raped at some point in their lives.
Incidents of human trafficking worldwide annually. Seventy percent are female and 50 percent are children.
Incidents of human trafficking in the U.S. annually.
Average age of girls sold into sexual slavery.
Sources: FBI, U.S. State Department, U.N. Secretary General
Updated: March 17, 2013 6:14PM
Their arms raised and their feet on the move, a dozen local women came together at lunchtime Thursday — but not to eat. They formed themselves into a symbolic circle to safeguard victims they may never meet, who may live half a hemisphere away. Or they might live next door.
“We decided to join the One Billion Rising really to raise awareness of violence against women,” said Ashley Pitariu, manager of the WAR (Women at Risk) Chest Boutique on East Jefferson Avenue in Naperville. “We aim to wrap circles of protection around women who are exploited, oppressed and at risk of trafficking ... and let people know it’s happening.”
One Billion Rising, a worldwide Valentine’s Day demonstration of support for women and girls at risk of sexual exploitation and violence and those already victimized, found expression at the local store and countless other locations across the globe. Thursday’s dance event was scheduled to coincide with the 15th annual V-Day, a global activist movement aimed at ending violence against women and girls. The dance project, and its name, arose from statistics indicating one out of every three women will be beaten or raped during her lifetime; it adds up to more than a billion assaults.
The Naperville event was done collaboratively with Everyone Dances and Movement Alchemy, two local organizations that promote physical self-expression.
Downers Grove resident Kathy Woods, founder of Everyone Dances, led the group in the partially choreographed dance, set to the official One Billion Rising theme song.
“The words are ‘beautiful, beautiful creature,’” Woods said, beaming as she spread her arms wide. “That’s us! ... We can shout that out.”
Catherine Ehret, a Downers Grove resident and owner of Movement Alchemy, said she often hears about people living in conditions of stunning strife, and wonders how she can help alleviate it. Too frequently, she finds the remedy involves donating large sums of money, or traveling far away. The idea of inspiring solidarity and advancing awareness, using dance, was appealing.
“Movement is empowering,” Ehret said. “It’s a way to empower not only the body but empower the spirit.”
Pitariu, who runs a store offering gifts made by women who have been rescued or are at risk, said she hopes to make next year’s event much larger, perhaps inviting dance groups in the community to take part, or organizing a flash mob format — or both.
In April, her store plans to support a workshop in the community designed to help prepare people to become “human first responders,” trained to detect human trafficking and exploitation.
“It is prevalent, although hidden,” Pitariu said. “People are being held for labor purposes against their will, and often they don’t speak English.”
The average age of girls sold into sexual servitude, she said, is 13.
“It’s in our middle schools,” said Pitariu, who has a 13-year-old daughter. “It is happening. Even here.”