Many years ago I attended a bellydance event in another community. The husband of the dancer who was organizing the event was there the entire weekend. I commented on how great it was that he was so supportive. The dancer I was with told me that he beats his wife and won't let her out of his sight because he doesn't trust her.
I really can't explain why this surprised me. At the time I had been working as a clinical social worker in the field of family violence for over 2 decades. I know that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men are victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetimes (CDC, 2010). Over the years, countless people (upon hearing what I do for a living) had disclosed their stories of sexual and physical violence. I know that family violence can happen to anyone regardless of socioeconomic level, race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, etc. So why was I surprised?
When I walk into a dance studio it is like a sacred space. Dance is my form of meditation and the dancers are my community. It feels safe and good and somehow protected. But I KNOW that there are women who enter the studio who are being emotionally or physically abused when they go home after class. Statistically, in a class of 20, there are at least 6 of us who have experienced intimate partner violence.
I believe there is an opportunity for those of us who dance to hold our sisters up and let them know that they are not alone. This can be as simple as leaving brochures from the local domestic violence program in the studio restroom. Don't know anything about the local program? Search "[name of your county] domestic violence" or go to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website.
Want to do a little more? Educate yourself about domestic violence. Go to the National Coalition website. Read some of the fact sheets and learn about the types of power and control that can occur in an abusive relationship. Physical violence is only one of many abusive behaviors. Read about how to recognize signs of a potentially abusive partner. I call them "red flags" and they can include things that might seem flattering at first... wanting to spend all his/her time with you, constantly texting you to see where you are, telling you what he/she likes you to wear. Tell your friends about what you learned.
Want to do even more? Consider making the local DV program the recipient of any profits from your next hafla. Check with your local DV shelter and see what they need right now (most don't have space for storage). Put a cardboard box in the corner of the studio to collect toilet paper, diapers, hair care products, etc.
If you want to talk further about this topic, get in touch with me or Terri. We both have extensive professional experience working in the field of family violence.