November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women created in honor of the Mirabal sisters of the Dominican Republic who were assassinated because of their participation in movements against the dictator Rafael Trujillo's regime). The date, designated by the United Nations General Assembly, marks the beginning of 16 days of remembrance and activism concluding with International Human Rights Day on December 10th. Though a single day, sixteen days or even many years is never enough to remedy this global issue, it ought to at least give us all a moment to pause and reflect during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to think about what we can do and to stand in solidarity with the massive amounts of women worldwide affected by violence, many right in their own homes.
Statistically, about 1 in 3 women have or will suffer some kind of sexual or violent abuse in their lifetimes by someone who is not their partner. According to a report by the United Nations, 19% of women between the ages of 15-49 have experienced physical and/or sexual violence “by an intimate partner” that in some cases has resulted in her death, while other studies show a staggering 70% rate of abuse at the hands of a partner. (Next time you’re in a group of women, look around and let those figures sink in). This gender-based violence spreads to the especially vulnerable: young girls and trans or queer-identifying women in the LGBTQ communities.
In honor, awareness, and solidarity of these sixteen days and for the women, girls and all people affected by any act of violence against them or their loved ones, I wanted to share a film I am very proud of that ETD was a part of this past summer. This incredible short film, ALTHOUGH, was directed and filmed by Clarissa Lapolla with Music by Massimo Bonuccelli, choreography by me, Eryc Taylor, in collaboration with ETD performers Chris Bell and Nicole Baker.
I was both honored and moved that she asked me to collaborate and participate in this meaningful project and intrigued about why she sought ETD out for something with this kind of subject matter. She was initially looking for dancers more along the lines of an ABT style and was a bit hesitant about Chris and Nicole, but I pushed for them because I know what they are capable of both physically and emotionally and the power of their presence on and off stage and screen from working with them for years. In addition to that, they have a special, intimate bond from working with one another in the company plus they are regular dance partners and also have done outside projects and multiple photography sessions together -- so that absolute trust is there. They both ended up exceeding my expectations (and Clarissa’s) as they always do which just makes me beam with pride and gratitude for my extraordinary company members.
I definitely learned A LOT more about this painful topic from working on the film (which I was initially apprehensive about because I am aware of the sensitive nature of the subject matter and didn't want it to come across as reductive in any way) and about the complications of filming in general. The video couldn't follow the original script because we had a location issue with rain that day. So a three-day shoot turned into a one-day shoot of 12 hours because of scheduling. Filming poses different challenges than a live performance. The experiences with working on this film and additional investigative research on these issues further broadened my awareness to the vulnerability many women and girls face daily at the hands of abusive men in a patriarchal society that doesn't seem to be getting better.
Thinking of those statistics makes me wonder every time I am in a group with women -- how many of those I know and care about (as well as acquaintances and even strangers) have been victims of some kind of abuse? How many of our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts grandmothers, partners, and friends -- who all probably thought it could never happen to them -- are holding in torturous secrets?
But if I know one thing about women from having the rock-solid support of my magnificent mom, my beautiful best female friend Beth and the many dancers, associates and other delightful divas I have had the privilege to know, it is that women are STRONG and resilient. They can overcome enormous difficulties and adversities and I believe there is hope and with love, support and taking action, there can be healing and the power to change as well. When women band together they can and do transform the world! Already 140 countries and counting have laws in place to protect women and girls from domestic violence and sexual harassment. But it all starts right here at home and with each of us doing our part.
Here is what you can do over the next 16 days and anytime to help others and/or yourself by taking the steps to raise awareness and work to end violence against all female-kind:
Use #HearMeToo to help spread awareness to End Violence Against Women and Girls
If you are or know someone in need call: National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233
Join or donate to an organization that empowers women, stands up to defend and protect the vulnerable and eliminates violence and sexual abuse against women and girls. Here are a few:
Amnesty International: https://www.amnesty.org/en/
Women’s March: https://www.womensmarch.com/
Apne Aap Women’s Collective: http://www.aawc.in/
NOMI Network: https://nominetwork.org/
5. Do the research -- Here are some other resources: