Organization uses dance to raise awareness about domestic violence

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Nikki Harvey knew her boyfriend would try to hit her if she stayed with him; she could tell from all of the emotional abuse.

Harvey, an Austin resident, knew better. After her boyfriend entered her home with a key that she did not give him, she knew she had to file an order of protection. That was 24 years ago. Harvey said it’s unfortunate that not all women have the sense to let go of an abusive relationship.

“Women tend to go to find the person they first fell in love with,” said Harvey, stressing that that’s not a fact but something she strongly believes.

From January to July in 2012, the city has received more than 7,000 calls to its domestic violence hotline, according to the most recent data available on the city’s data portal website.

Eden Advocacy, a community organization working toward eliminating violence, will celebrate its fifth birthday this week as a group that has worked to raise awareness about domestic violence.  On March 7, about 10 West Side women gathered to attend the group’s one-year anniversary for its special dance therapy event at 2950 W. Chicago Ave., a beauty school near East Garfield Park.

“It doesn’t matter what size you are or how old you are, dance therapy is for everyone,” said Harvey.

At a typical dance therapy event, women get together and do different line dances for about an hour to various songs. Harvey said it allows women to briefly forget the stress in their lives and helps some lose weight.

The event was usually held once a month. Lately, the group had stopped holding dance sessions, but when Harvey realized that the event’s one-year anniversary was on March 7, she decided she would arrange a session and start holding the event more regularly.

On this particular day, the women danced the “Cha-Cha Slide,” the “Wobble” and the “Cupid Shuffle” — just to name a few.

Different women in the group taught others how to do a dance. Harvey said that not everyone was a spectacular dancer, but everyone who attended has fun.

“She’s got two left feet,” Harvey joked of one of the participants.

Harvey said there have been times when the event turned in to a sort of support group, where women just talked about their problematic relationships, past and present. It’s during these sessions, Harvey said, that women realize emotional abuse is also a form of domestic violence.

Austin resident Cherita Logan has not been in an abusive relationship, but she strongly supports the event and thinks it brings light to an issue that people tend to wave off.

“We’re being trained as soldiers against domestic violence,” said Logan, a deputy district director for U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Chicago).

Davis attended the event briefly to show his support and said he has been an advocate to make stricter laws that would help curb domestic violence for over 30 years.

Austin resident Vonnie Kimmons, like Logan, said she has never been in an abusive relationship but thinks the event was a good way to raise awareness about the issue.

Harvey said many people think abusive relationships exist only in low-income families, but said that’s a myth. She was supporting herself when she found herself dealing with domestic violence — ironically, as a worker for the State’s Attorney’s Victim’s Witness Assistance program.

Despite the heavy topic, Harvey tries to keep the event hopeful and light. The dance session started off with a prayer that Harvey led.

“You know what? A lot of times, women don’t know how to celebrate each other,” Harvey said during the prayer.



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