One Billion Rising movement continues fight to end violence against women
NORTH ADAMS - One out of every three - or one billion - women in the world will be abused at some point during their life.
That number is unacceptable to North Adams resident Rachel Branch, who has hosted a second annual show on Williamstown community television to mark the One Billion Rising movement. Created last year, 204 countries held One Billion Rising events on or near Valentine's Day in an effort to stem violence against women.
In 2014, the theme has expanded to One Billion Rising For Justice.
"One Billion Rising For Justice is a global call to women survivors of violence and those who love them to gather safely in community outside places where they are entitled to justice," the movement's website reads.
Branch's show, Solutions Rising, will air at 10:30 a.m. today on WilliNet, Williamstown's community television, or can be viewed online anytime at willinet.org.
"[One Billion Rising] is asking people to wear red and black on Valentine's Day, stand up and rise, and ask people to make a commitment to do one thing to stop violence against women and girls," Branch said.
For Branch, a significant part of the movement, and her program, is about changing patriarchal norms - for example, the idea that men shouldn't cry.
On this episode of Solutions Rising, Branch sat down with representatives from the Elizabeth Freeman Center, a Pittsfield-based nonprofit that assists abuse victims, to discuss abuse from the victim's perspective, she said, and how victim's advocacy organizations are working with police and other civic organizations to help the abused.
"We serve almost 3,000 survivors every year through our direct service programs," said Janis Broderick, executive director of the Freeman Center. "We serve someone from almost every city, town and hamlet in Berkshire County."
Berkshire County has a restraining order rate per capita 30 percent higher than the rest of the state, according to Broderick. Although she cites that number as a symbol of small progress - in 2008, Berkshire County's rate of restraining orders was 40 percent above the state average - there is still work to be done.
"People don't talk about it, because people feel very ashamed to talk about it," Broderick said. "We shouldn't feel shame."
Branch, 71, was herself abused years ago in Colorado, she said, when there was no network of support for victims.
"It doesn't matter who you are," Branch said. "It can happen to anybody."
Branch was on hand Tuesday as North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright declared today One Billion Rising For Justice Day In North Adams at a city council meeting. The mayor asked that all of the women present at the meeting stood as the male councilors took turns reading the proclamation.
"I will never completely recover," Branch said. "But fortunately I have been able to do many things with my life in spite of it."
To reach Adam Shanks: firstname.lastname@example.org or (413) 663-3741 ext. 225. On Twitter: @EagleAdamShanks
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