Midland organizations advocate for education and eradication of violence against women

It is shockingly common to know a woman or girl that has been a victim of some form of violence. It could be your sister, mother, best friend, wife, family member, coworker or a child, but most of us have at least one person that comes to mind.

If not more.

It’s local. It’s national. It’s global.

Last year Shelterhouse served 151 survivors of sexual assault.

Seeing the numbers is a stark reminder that we have more to do as a society to educate, empower and eradicate the prevalence of violence against women.

Shelterhouse, a key Midland resource for such trauma, provides safety planning, court accompaniment, advocacy, counseling, support groups, and connection with other community resources, served 3,390 individuals last year.

"We have a suite of services at Shelterhouse to provide women and children in need with the resources to get through difficult times," says Ally Gajseiwicz, Prevention and Outreach Coordinator for Shelterhouse.

Ally Gajseiwicz, Prevention and Outreach Coordinator for Shelterhouse.

Last year in Midland:

5,123: Shelterhouse provided 5,123 nights of shelter for 110 survivors of domestic violence and their children.

151: Shelterhouse served 151 survivors of sexual assault.

204: Shelterhouse served 204 adolescents and children who were sexually abused or impacted by domestic violence.

Shelterhouse served 3,390 individuals last year.

In the United States, over 1 in 3 or 37 percent of women experience sexual violence, physical violence or stalking victimization by a partner during her lifetime. Nationally, severe physical violence is experienced by 1 out of every 4 women and 1 out of every 7 men over their lifetime. (The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NINVS) 2010-2012 state report).

Globally, the World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 3 or 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

Violence against women can take many different forms and can include: Intimate partner violence, including physical, sexual and psychological violence, sexual violence, female genital mutilation, forced and early marriages, femicide and human trafficking.

Shelterhouse served 204 adolescents and children who were sexually abused or impacted by domestic violence last year.

In Midland, there are several resource organizations that exist to support survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence including Shelterhouse of Midland, Partners in Change, the Michigan Abolitionist Project and women’s advocacy groups Zonta Club of Midland and Golden Z of Northwood University.

In a few weeks, as part of an awareness campaign, Zonta Club of Midland will kick off 16 Days of Activism: Zonta Says No to Violence Against Women. The effort is a part of a broader international effort launched by Zonta International in 2012 motivated by the United Nations 16 Days of Activism.

Since 1981, Midland’s annual Zonta Homewalk has been a holiday event and premier fundraiser for the Zonta Club of Midland.

Spread between and marked by two important days of recognition, the effort starts on November 25 – the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and culminates on December 10 – Human Rights Day. During this time, the color orange is worn to show a positive stance to this issue.

Recently, as a precursor to the 16 Days of Activism, Zonta of Midland held an inspirational and powerful viewing of the documentary Little Stones, a story from director Sophia Kruz about four women using art to empower and educate women and girls around the world. The film is a stark depiction of all the ways women experience violence globally, as well as the broad efforts to educate, heal and rise into a place of influence and control over our collective destiny.

Born of the passion that we all have a role to play in the fight for equal rights and end of gender-based violence, the film’s title is inspired by a quote from women’s advocate and activist Alice Paul in 1974. In the fight for equal rights and ending violence against women Paul had noted the women’s rights movement was “sort of mosaic. Each of us puts in one little stone.”

The documentary features the stories of four women whose lives are marked by violence against women and how they are helping shape a better future for others.

On the first day of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Brazilian Graffiti artist Panmela Castro organizes a 1 kilometer-long mural protesting domestic violence in Little Stones.

Panmela Castro - Brazil

Panmela Castro is a Brazillian Graffiti artist whose life was marked by domestic violence at the hands of her husband. She speaks out now through her art in Brazil (where Graffiti is legal) and beyond. Graffiti in Brazil is thought to be an artistic effort for men, but Castro has fiercely made her way.

Graffiti art is legal in Brazil, and murals, like Panmela Castro’s above, are found all over urban areas throughout the country.

Castro also has broadened her advocacy efforts by speaking with Brazilian high school students about how to end domestic violence along with her art through her organization Rede Nami.

Senior Dance Movement Therapy Practitioner Jhulan Mondal leads a group dance at Kolkata Sanved’s 10th Anniversary Celebration in the documentary Little Stones.

Sohini Chakraborty – India

Sohini Chakraborty pioneered a form of dance therapy to heal child survivors of sex trafficking, domestic abuse and labor exploitation in India. The idea behind the dance therapy Chakraborty teaches and advocates for came from the desire to empower survivors of assault to use their body for something freeing.

For victims of sex trafficking, someone else has control over their body. Dance therapy teaches girls of all ages how to love themselves, their bodies and regain control building self esteem.

Senior Dance Movement Therapy Practitioner Mehraj Khatoon performs at the Kolkata Sanved 10th Anniversary Celebration in 2014.

Chakraborty now teaches and trains victims to become professional dancers and dance therapy instructors through her organization Kolkata Sanved.

Anna Taylor looks at a skirt made by a woman in training at the James 127 Foundation’s tailor training program in the documentary Little Stones.
Anna Taylor – Kenya

Anna Taylor started Judith + James after traveling to and living in Kenya with her family for several years. After being introduced to a local seamstress who needed work, Taylor put her degree and experience in the fashion industry to work for a good cause.

Kenyan tailor Judith Achiemg Dgaye sews a skirt for the clothing line Judith & James, in the documentary Little Stones.

Taylor uses her sister nonprofit, the James 127 Foundation to teach women in Kenya key sewing and seamstress skills for free in hopes that it gives them a path to providing a livable wage. Judith + James has had multiple shows featured at New York Fashion Week and clothing as well as jewelry is available at Dillard’s department stores.

Senegalese hip-hop star Sister Fa performs in the Vélingara region of Senegal in the documentary Little Stones.

Sister Fa – Sengal

Senegalese hip-hop star Sister Fa (whose real name is Fatou Diatta) uses her music to protest FGM (female genital mutilation) in Senegal and beyond. A misunderstood and somewhat common practice in the country, Diatta was cut when she was a young girl. Some senegalese traditions falsely believe the practice aids in girls’ ability to find and secure a husband later in life.

Diatta is a force for advocacy in the male-dominated rap scene and uses music to address sensitive topics like FGM and other issues impacting women in Senegal and other countries.

The Little Stones production crew while filming in Senegal.

Globally, if you would like to get more involved in the fight against gender-based violence, more information can be found at Little Stones - Take Action.

Locally, if you would like to get more involved in this effort, Zonta of Midland will be putting up several ads in and around Midland in the coming weeks. The organization will also be handing out candy and informative post cards to adults with facts on gender-based violence at the Midland Santa Parade on Saturday, November 17.

Zonta of Midland’s largest activity and fundraiser – The Zonta Homewalk – takes place during the 16 Days of Activism on December 1 and 2. A popular holiday tradition, for $20 you can walk through five new Midland homes that have been expertly decorated for the season. The money that is raised from the event is given away as grants to local nonprofits that empower and advance women, as well as five local scholarships recipients to help improve their economic status.

Rachelle Ferman with Zonta Club of Midland and her daughter Hannah.

Since 1981, Midland’s annual Zonta Homewalk has been a holiday event and premier fundraiser for the Zonta Club of Midland. The club has collaborated with the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio to feature area architects and many of the Mid-Century Modern homes in Midland. “To date, over $521,000 has been raised by the annual Homewalk,” says Rachelle Ferman Advocay board member for Zonta of Midland. “These funds are vital for funding scholarships for local women in need and grants for area non-profits.”

"It's a really powerful impact we are able to have with the funds and something we are truly passionate about at Zonta," says Ferman. "My other passion for being involved is my daughter, who is also involved in Zonta. My hope is that one day she can live in a world free gender-based violence, where women's rights are human rights."

If you or someone you know is a victim of gender-based violence in or near Midland County, the following resources can provide guidance, support and assistance.

Shelterhouse: https://shelterhousemidland.org  |  989.835.6771
Partners in Change: http://www.psychologistsmidland.com  |  989.832.2165
Michigan Abolitionist Project: www.map-mi.org  |  info@map-mi.org
Zonta Club of Midland: http://www.zontaclubofmidland.org

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Read more articles by Courtney Soule.

Courtney is a longtime Midland resident and enjoys telling the story of the community's evolution. She ran Catalyst Midland as the publication's managing editor from October 2017 through September 2020. Her favorite topics are interesting people, change makers, outdoor recreation and design. Aside from Catalyst, her published work can be found various places including Elephant Journal, Thought Catalog and a number of other websites, papers, menus and the occasional one-liner.