Oct. 8, 2003 – In observance of October nationwide as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Women's Coalition of St. Croix, Family Resource Center on St. Thomas and The Safety Zone on St. John have scheduled activities to commemorate, educate and mourn victims of domestic abuse.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull has called upon residents to join in the observance "and to participate in the activities scheduled."
The biggest focus will be on Oct. 23, when all three agencies will sponsor "Take Back the Night" marches and candlelight vigil commemorations.
On St. Thomas and St. John, victims of domestic violence will share their stories through another national initiative, The Clothesline Project. A concept which spread across the nation, including in the Virgin Islands, in the 1990s, it begins in a local community with victims of domestic violence writing a message to their abuser, another victim or any audience on a T-shirt or other garment. It continues with a collection of those locally assembled garments being publicly displayed in the community, and sometimes with follow-up dialogue and discussions.
In remembrance of the 30 women and one infant known to have died as a result of domestic violence in the territory over the last 19 years, members of the community also are being asked to wear small purple ribbons throughout October.
Wearing the purple lapel ribbons is a way for people to show "their stand against domestic violence and their support of victim advocates who work on behalf of victims," a Family Resource Center release stated.
On St. Thomas, ribbons may be picked up at the Draughting Shaft, Diamond Barrel Restaurant, Sweet Kisses and the center's counseling facility on Bunker Hill.
On St. Croix, they are available from many locations including the Women's Coalition office, Women's Business Center, Salvador Barbershop, Caribbean Dance Company, Case Place, Family Sports and Fitness Center, and Wendy's.
On St. John, Safety Zone personnel are distributing ribbons and bookmarks to various locations around the island.
For background information about The Clothesline Project, the October national observance, and the tradition of the purple ribbons, visit the Domestic Violence Awareness Month Web site, choosing among the menu options at the left side of the page.
Nationally, domestic violence is the 7th ranked cause of death among women, according to research presented by Jacquelyn Campbell, a speaker at the 8th International Conference on Family Violence, held in San Diego last month. And, she said, it is the leading cause of death among African-American women between the ages of 15 and 34.
Campbell, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, also cited survey findings that among women who died as a result of domestic violence nationwide:
– As many as 80 percent were killed by a former spouse or intimate partner.
– As many as 80 percent had previously been victims of battering.
– As many as 47 percent had previously been seen in the health-care system.
Iris Kern, executive director of The Safety Zone, said she believes it is important to break the silence about domestic violence. "Secrecy and silence work against peace and resolution," she said. "We need to make people know" that being silent about any form of violence is to be complacent about all violence.
Following is a listing by island of activities and observances scheduled:
To assist victims of domestic violence, the Women's Coalition is asking for donations of food items, cleaning supplies, cooking supplies, linens, personal hygiene items and toys for children. Those wishing to contribute any of these "Wish List" items can drop them off on Oct. 18 at the Sion Farm Plaza Extra or the Sunny Isle Kmart. Or call the coalition at 773-9272.
The Women's Coalition-sponsored "Take Back the Night" march and candlelight ceremony on Oct. 23 is to begin at 6 p.m. outside St. John's Episcopal Church on King Street in Christiansted. Participants are asked to wear purple, and to bring a friend and a can of food.
On Oct. 16, Family Resource Center will host a meeting of representatives of men's and women's auxiliaries of religious groups. The informational session is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. at Palms Court Harborview Hotel.
On Oct. 18, items from The Clothesline Project will be displayed at Tutu Park Mall. The shirts that will be shown make "a compelling visual display that bears witness to the many forms of violence perpetrated against women and children," according to a Family Resource Center release. It will both "honor the survivors and memorialize the victims."
The center also is asking local communities of faith to include mention of domestic violence in their worship services on Oct. 18 and 19 and to ask their members "to support the work" of agencies assisting victims of domestic abuse, its release stated.
Family Resource Center will sponsor a "Take Back the Night" march and candlelight ceremony on Oct. 23 that will begin at 5 p.m. in Emancipation Garden. For more information, call 776-3966.
St. John's "Take Back the Night" walk on Oct. 23 will start from the Cruz Bay tennis courts at 6 p.m. and proceed to Cruz Bay Park, where a vigil will be held.
On Oct. 25, The Safety Zone will host A Day at the Park Against Domestic Violence starting at 9 a.m. There will be information tables, vendors and live music. The St. John Clothesline Project output will be displayed, too. Victims of domestic violence have created T-shirts telling stories about "their pain and their hopes," according to a Safety Zone release.
The Safety Zone is undertaking three other community outreach efforts during the month to make people aware of domestic violence and its cost to the community:
– The Table Tent Campaign involved the placing of Domestic Violence Awareness Month tents on the tables in restaurants, hospital cafeterias, bars and employee cafeterias.
– The Library Campaign consists of displaying books related to domestic violence and distributing free book markers with information about help available.
– The Religious Campaign centers on a mailing to all St. John faith institutions asking that they address domestic violence in worship services or in a newsletter.
The Safety Zone also is conducting a young people's rap and poetry contest on St. John open to students in grades 3 through 9. Entries must be related to preventing violence and promoting domestic peace. Prizes totaling $300 are to be awarded. To learn more, call 693-7233.
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