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Utah flash mobs protest violence against women

By Nkoyo Iyamba | Posted - Feb 14th, 2013 @ 9:34pm


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SALT LAKE CITY - People all over the world are protesting violence against women, including here in Utah. But not as one might think.

Flash mobs across the country and in Utah celebrated the global awareness campaign "One Billion Rising" Thursday. The movement is the brain child of playwright and activist Eve Ensler. The goal is to dance in solidarity with the one billion women estimated to be abuse survivors.

So why protest sexual violence on a day that celebrates love? Utahns involved in the movement say it celebrates a "new day" where victims of abuse and violence are no longer silent.

"I came to the point where I said, I'm going to break the cycle. I'm going to break the cycle for my kids," said Pastor Detorea Oliver.


"We're looking at ourselves not as victims anymore but looking at victims as survivors."

Oliver says her congregation sees how happy she is since leaving an abusive marriage and creating a happy home with her second husband and five children.

She became a victim as a child.

"Until the point when I was in high school and the state took custody of me and put me in foster care," Oliver said. "I never returned to the home."

Iraqi native Samira Harnish also faced decades of violence in an abusive marriage. Now, she helps refugees who have similar experiences through her non-profit, Women of the World.

"They face female genital mutilation," she said. "They're survivors of honor killings, oppression, domestic violence."

A 2005 survey from the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault shows the state outpaces the national average for sexual assault. In Utah, one in three women will be sexually assaulted. Nationally, the rate is closer to 1 in 6.

Eighty-six percent of victims will be assaulted before their 18th birthday.

Holly Mullen with the Rape Recovery Center says Utah's young population makes these crimes more likely.

"It is particularly easy to victimize a vulnerable young person," she said.

The voices you don't see represented in the movement are the voices of men, who find it even more difficult to come forward and reveal their perpetrators. While One Billion Rising is largely raising awareness for violence against women, organizers say they're "rising" for all victims.

"About one in six men will be sexually abused in some way in their lifetime," said Mullen.

Victims we spoke with say they're finding strength and support through social media from people around the world.

"I think we are witnessing this shift in paradigm," said Ruth.

Whitney added, "We're looking at ourselves not as victims anymore but looking at victims as survivors," said Whitney.

Oliver says it's all about showing victims they can overcome their circumstances.

"We continue to get the word out and to show ourselves as being strong survivors," she said.

This is the attitude that will continue to create more survivors.

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