Dozens of people danced in the rain on Thursday in celebration of an idea.
I can see a world where we all live safe and free from all oppression
No more rape or incest, or abuse
Women are not a possession
Break the Chain — a song sung by Tena Clark with choreographed moves by celebrity dancer Debbie Allen — was performed in Dade City, around the United States and some 200 countries around the world Thursday as part of One Billion Rising, a global event to protest violence against women and girls.
"Today around the world, and in east Pasco County, we stand together," said Jakki Bavin, primary prevention educator at Sunrise of Pasco, the domestic violence and sexual assault center that hosted the Dade City gathering. "We rise up because we have had enough of violence against women and girls. We will dance in the streets and raise our voices, to say that we refuse to let the violence continue."
On a blocked-off stretch of Pasco Avenue, between Beef O'Brady's and the historic courthouse, people of all ages and walks of life gathered at noon for the dance. Many held up signs stating their reasons for participating.
Sunrise counselor Jeannette Sowman carried a sign that read: "I am rising so my daughter and grandchildren will not be abused anymore."
Sowman fought tears as she explained the story behind her sign. Four years ago, she said, she learned that her daughter and grandson were being abused in their home.
"She got her children out of that place. Now she has a new home and a new life," said Sowman. "I came to Sunrise because of her. And today I dance because of her."
One Billion Rising was held on the 15th anniversary of V-Day, an anti-violence protest observed every Valentine's Day and originated by Eve Ensler, author of the play The Vagina Monologues. The goal was to get a billion people worldwide to stand in solidarity against rape, violence and cultural attitudes that allow the abuse of women and girls.
The daughters of two Sunrise staffers lent their dance moves — and their voices — to the Dade City program.
"When people feel abused, it makes them feel inferior," said Seren Bavin, 10, daughter of prevention educator Jakki Bavin. "We feel sad especially when kids are abused. We are the future."
"If you are being abused, we're here to make you feel better," added 9-year-old Maddie Phinney, daughter of Michelle Crowder-Soellner, Sunrise's social change community organizer.
In between sessions of the Break the Chain dance, a series of guest speakers discussed the individual situations of abused women in foreign countries, in the military, and here in the United States.
Each speaker listed various types of abuse, and the apathy with which they believe much of society treats these instances. Then they declared: "I'm over it!"
Local activist Tom Brown spoke of his late wife, Gale, who died in her early 60s as a result of long-term head injuries she sustained during a previous marriage that was abusive.
"Violence against women is not only a woman thing," he said. "It's a human thing."
Brown also delivered some good news to the crowd, as word spread that the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act is gaining steam. For the first time since 1994, Congress failed to reauthorize the legislation last year after specific protections were added for domestic violence victims who are gay, Native American or undocumented immigrants.
But this week, Brown told the audience, "the Violence Against Women Act has passed the Senate."
And leaders are talking about how to proceed in the U.S. House.
Out in the crowd, Jeannette Sowman wept openly at the news.