When Valentine’s Day comes around, we’re urged to turn to our sweethearts with professions of love. A yearly gathering in downtown Naperville, Illinois encourages women to direct some of that emotion toward others who are mired in circumstances far less heartwarming.
This year’s local expression of the One Billion Rising dance for justice incorporated new elements intended to build participants’ love for themselves, and for other women they are unlikely ever to meet. WAR (Women At Risk) Chest Boutique, Love Letters to Yourself, Mutual Ground, and Stone Soup & Lemonade hosted a Saturday afternoon workshop that combined art, writing and dance to foster heightened hope and empowerment.
The participants also wrote letters to women who have been targeted in sexual slavery and other human trafficking operations and are now in protective settings. Most of them opened their messages with “Dear Sister,” to underscore the sentiment of solidarity. Kathy Woods of Downers Grove, a cofounder of Stone Soup & Lemonade, emphasized that the communications would go a long way in lifting up the victims to whom they will be delivered. “This gives the person hope,” she said. “Your letter is going to be sent to the right person, and it will be just what that person needs.”
Ashley Pitariu, manager of the boutique, said in addition to domestic abuse and sex trafficking, Women At Risk International takes on such issues as acid attacks and honor killings as well. She noted that while the mechanics of saving so many women from so many forces of harm may appear daunting, the mission is simple. “We just want to lift women back to worth and dignity,” she said. “Whatever their dream is, we want to encourage that dream and make it real.”
The afternoon culminated in a group rendition of One Billion Rising’s “Break the Chain” routine, a dance done worldwide on or around Valentine’s Day to demonstrate support for women and girls at risk of sexual exploitation and violence, and those already victimized.
Learn more at Susan Frick Carlman’s Naperville Sun article: One Billion Rising event aims to aid women harmed by human trafficking.