Inmates dance to put an end to domestic violence

February 14, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Millions of people in the Bay Area and around the world are taking part in what some are calling a dance revolution to stop violence against women. It's part of an international movement called One Billion Rising. Even prisoners at the San Francisco Jail joined in.

"It's going to create a shift of consciousness, and just the rythm on the earth, just think about a billion people dancing" One Billion Rising's Rachel Erwin said.

The song is called "Break the Chain." When you are an inmate in an anti-violence program, the words resonate.

"It's just amazing; hopefully we can reach everyone across the world and break the chains of violence," San Francisco County Jail inmate Shaun Roberson said.

San Francisco is thought to have the only jail system anywhere taking part in this global campaign. At the county jail in San Bruno, Capt. Kevin Paulson joined the inmates he supervises.

"I want to make the world better and these guys want to make the world better and that's why I'm doing it today," he said.

The inmates say the music and their movements are a powerful form of healing.

One group of women that participated are part of a substance abuse recovery program in the jail.

"Hopefully today is a better day than yesterday; I'm trying to do the best I can and this is going to help me move forward in my life," inmate Shaun Roberson said.

Bringing the international anti-violence movement into the jails was Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi's idea. He pleaded guilty in a domestic violence case involving his wife Eliana Lopez. Both of them danced with the inmates Thursday after he was reportedly left out of the ceremony at City Hall.

"I don't dwell on it," Mirkarimi said. "That's about them. That's about them."

The sheriff said he thought it was important to bring the creativity and courage into the jail. He says he's thinking about making dance a permanent part of the program there.

Big crowd celebrates One Billion Rising at City Hall

Thursday's song and dance in front of San Francisco City Hall is about much more than just a good time. City officials including the mayor, police chief and district attorney all came together to show their support.

"This is a gathering of one billion women and men and all those who love women, to strike, dance and demand an end to domestic violence and all forms of violence against women and girls," said Marily Mondejar from the Filipina Women's Network president. "UN came out with a statistic that one in every three women will be beaten, raped or mutilated in their lifetime. And if there are 7 billion on the planet, that's about 1 billion."

Carrie Canine of Oakland has experienced the violence. She said, "When I was in high school I was raped and I felt like I had nowhere to go and no one to speak for me. So this is exciting. We've made progress."

It's progress through a pledge led by Mayor Ed Lee, "I am one of the 1 billion rising. I will make violence against women and girls a priority of our time?"

The day was about empowering women and those involved say it was a success.

Ama Daetz contributed to this report.


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