Calling attention to one of the most pressing social issues facing the local community and world at large, members of the St. Thomas Seventh-day Adventist churches marched and rallied Saturday afternoon to end violence against women and children.
The St. Thomas’ Seventh-day Adventist churches joined 200 countries and territories in this call to action. More than 150 church members marched from Addelita Cancryn Junior High School to Emancipation Gardens in Charlotte Amalie, where the rally was held on St. Thomas. Men, women and children of all ages filled Emancipation Gardens in support of the campaign, donning T-shirts, signs and pins that said ‘End It Now.’
The rally was part of the global campaign to end violence against women called ‘End It Now,’ which launched in 2009. Held annually on the fourth Saturday in August, this global event was introduced to the Virgin Islands in 2014. The Family Resource Center, a nonprofit agency that works to end family violence by offering counseling programs and shelter for victims of domestic abuse, has supported the event each year by helping educate attendees and the community alike about domestic violence issues.
Naomi Penn, area coordinator for the St. Thomas-St. John Seventh-day Adventists’ Women’s Ministries Council, said violence against women is more common in the community than most think.
“Although it is an uncomfortable subject for many people, it has become more and more obvious that abuse is a serious problem,” Penn said. “We recognize that within our own community the extent of this problem and the serious, long-term effects it has upon the lives of all involved.”
Citing statistics from the United Nations, Corliss Smithen, communications director for the Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Church, said incidences of violence are on the rise around the world and it’s the church’s duty to help stop this upward trend.
“We strongly affirm the dignity and worth of each human being and decry all forms of physical, sexual and emotional abuse,” Penn said.
Vivian St. Juste, executive director of the Family Resource Center, told the crowd that domestic abuse comes in many forms and that not all types leave bruises. In addition to physical, sexual and emotional abuse, St. Juste said someone can inflict psychological, economic, elderly and spiritual abuse on a victim.
To help address the cause of violence, the FRC also works with perpetrators of abuse to educate them about the harm they are causing others and how to stop doing so.
“If you don’t stop the leak, you’ll still have a leak,” said St. Juste, explaining why the FRC works with both abusers and victims.
During the march, the Pathfinder Youth Group’s drum corps played while many of the young members marched alongside.
In the past, the St. Thomas Seventh-day Adventist churches have held rallies against violence at the Tutu Park Mall as well.
The End It Now campaign is a partnership between the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, a humanitarian organization, and the Department of Women’s Ministries of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“‘End It Now’ builds on the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s long tradition of responding to the needs of all human beings, namely to stand up in favor of human rights, tolerance, the well-being of children, freedom of expression and conscience, and the protection and integrity of families,” Penn said.