The Multicultural Women's Group organised the event, which promotes ‘the power of creative resistance’.
One Billion Rising (OBR) is an international campaign, with demonstrations around the world taking place on or around Valentine’s Day to underline the irony of the fact that it is often within supposedly loving relationships that violence takes place.
St Edmundsbury Mayor Julia Wakelam joined dancers dressed in red, performing the ‘Break the Chain’ dance on Angel Hill. Deputy Mayor, Terry Clements and Deputy Mayoress, Vivienne Clements also took part along with Councillors Paul and Beccy Hopfensperger.
Pupils from County Upper School attended, with teacher Eleanor Rehahn who is also a member of the Fawcett Society.
Representatives from the local Women’s Aid charity were there, making a collection for the women’s refuge in Bury St Edmunds and raising awareness of the often hidden problem of domestic abuse. The collection raised £141.20.
MWG Director Faith Stabler said: “It has been really brilliant. It has been a lot of work for some people to organise. I think it is wonderful that we are able to do this. We have attracted slightly more people this year – and I think that is partly down to the weather!”
MWG Director Sylvana Marley said: “This is the fourth year that we have taken part in OBR. We are growing every year, getting more and more people involved. A lot of people ask ‘What is the point of dancing? How is that going to change anything?’ but it is to show solidarity and raise awareness. Unfortunately , it is something that is still much needed even today. In Bury St Edmunds alone, about 500 women were helped at the Women’s Refuge – and that is only the women who come forward. We tend to think of it as being a problem in other countries, or in mainly lower class areas. Bury is quite a middle class area but there is a hell of a lot of abuse going on. It’s a shame we still have to be talking about it in 2017.”
750,000 children a year in the UK witness domestic violence.
Annie Munson from Women’s Aid said: “It’s just lovely that everyone has turned out on a fairly chilly day to give us support and bring the attention of the wider community to women and the suffering that is around. We are constantly being called on for help; it never really drops. I think there is growing awareness, and anything like this helps. It is always good to have a presence so that, if they do feel they are able to, women can stop and speak to us or at least to know that there is someone they can turn to in Bury.”
Women’s Aid fundraiser Judith Grandi said: “Hidden victims of abuse in west Suffolk – the ones who don’t come forward – are estimated at more than 6,000 women and 4,000 men over the past year. We have plans to reach out to people who may be suffering in silence through Healthy Relationship workshops, going out into rural areas around the town. These workshops will help people reflect on their own experiences and decide whether or not they should accept their situation. Because very often, the perpetrator will be blaming the victim; a lot of people will accept that, and think ‘If only hadn’t provoked him or her, this wouldn’t be happening’. We think that healthy relationships is the way to go.”
Eleanor Rehahn said: “The girls really enjoyed it. They are already making plans to get more people involved next year.”
Deputy Mayor, Terry Clements said: “I thought it was tremendous today. I’m supposed to be supporting people who are being active, and this is one way of being active. I’d say to everyone – look on YouTube [for the Break the Chain dance video]. I got it totally wrong, but I had a thoroughly good time!”