BY FIONA STOKES (DAILY NEWS STAFF)
Published: March 9, 2013
ST. CROIX - Women of Faith gathered on Friday at the V.I. Cardiac Center to speak out about ending violence against women the same day the territory observed International Women's Day.
March 8 originally was called International Working Women's Day. In different parts of the world, the focus of the event ranges from general celebrations of respect, appreciation and love toward women to a celebration for women's economic, political and social achievements.
The International Women's Day Forum, sponsored by the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council, this year focused on plans to coordinate education prevention and response efforts to help reduce the incidence of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence and to make the crimes socially and culturally unacceptable.
The council's director, Lynn Spencer, said women across the nation have been consistently in the top demographics of victims of violence.
"Victims of abuse are primarily ex-girlfriends, girlfriends, wives, boyfriends and mothers in that order," she said. "We have to take a close look at why this happens and stop this trend."
For many in the community, newly elected senators, the delegate to Congress, newly appointed judges and other women of influence bring a sense of hope that women's issues involving abuse and other victimization will be identified and addressed, but many women still struggle on a daily basis and see no relief coming soon, Spencer said.
"We need to get out and be productive in coordinating an effective community response to this," she said. "The reality of it is, until all of our women and girls are safe, none of our women and girls are safe."
Gerene Joseph, Seventh-day Adventist North Caribbean Conference director of women's and children's ministries, was a guest speaker at the conference. She said the campaign to end violence against woman and girls has to be one that the entire community feels obligated to join.
The Seventh-day Adventist North Caribbean Conference launched its "End It Now" campaign in 2009, which included members representing 10 islands in the region and has been working to continue to broaden the scope of work that they do and the women they reach.
"We all have to see the need and become active," Joseph said. "We are now collecting signatures and have collected hundreds of thousands of signatures from people who feel the same way that we do."
The signatures will be submitted to United Nations leaders in hopes of getting more leadership to make a pledge to put policies and laws in place to protect women from violence, Joseph said.
The event also included a panel discussion and an inspirational reading.
Spencer said the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council is available to help empower other groups and organization and provides training throughout the territory for professionals about how to deal with domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.
For more information or to be part of the movement to stop violence against women and girls, call 719-0144 on St. Croix or 776-3966 on St. Thomas.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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