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St. Thomas Adds to Global Dialogue About Violence Against Women with ‘One Billion Rising’

The intent of the Family Resource Center’s “One Billion Rising” event is to raise awareness about violence against women, but organizers said Tuesday that since its inception five years ago, the event, along with several of the center’s other initiatives, has also been an agent for change for men throughout the community.

Family Resource Center Executive Director Vivian St. Juste participates in the ‘One Billion Rising’ awareness event Tuesday.

Held this year in Emancipation Garden, “One Billion Rising” participants wore red and danced in front of the bandstand to promote awareness. According to the statistics, one in three women across the globe will be raped or beaten during their lifetime, and the One Billion Rising movement started in 2013 to show the world what those one billion affected women look like.

Organizers said Tuesday that many of the participants at the St. Thomas event were also victims and wanted to add their stories and experiences to the national dialogue.

“We have 15 people that have been rehearsing for the last three weeks to put this together,” Family Resource Center Executive Director Vivian St. Juste said Tuesday. “They were just interested in being part of taking that stand, in being part of the message that this movement represents.”

St. Juste said the group has been talking about concepts such as the use of body parts, rape and the targeting of women throughout the community, but organizers also said that it has been important for the Family Resource Center to get men involved in the discussions.

“I think that a lot of times, everybody views this kind of things as a woman’s issue or a children’s issues, but it’s really a family issue when you look at it,” said Vernon Araujo, the Family Resource Center’s development director. “And because of that, it’s really important to get men involved in the conversations because they are sometimes also the victims and, if they’re not, it’s important for them to realize what’s happening to women in our community and to be better for their sons.”

Araujo also spoke about the center’s “Terminating Violence” class that actively involves men. In many violence or domestic assault cases, the Family Resource Center works as a first responder for victims, offering counseling and other services, and Araujo said that it is important for the men involved to be able to participate in classes that could help them learn how to make a change.

If a perpetrator is just caught and thrown in jail, he or she could get out and repeat their actions, but with counseling, they could “break the cycle,” Araujo added.

“And this is absolutely making a difference. It definitely has in the past five years that we’ve done this event and continued to offer our services,” he said. “With the terminating violence class, I’ve seen and met people that have gone through the program and their lives have changed. And throughout the community, I’ve seen more people coming forward when something happens, more people are being referred to us, and they are also encouraging their friends to do something about the situations they may be in. I’ve noticed that people are now more comfortable taking a stand.”

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