Barton students participated in an international campaign to protest objectification and exploitation of women on Valentine’s Day.
The One Billion Rising event’s purpose was to represent the one billion women across the globe that will be beaten or raped during their lifetimes.
Many individuals were decked in red and pink attire and were given bow wristlets to represent the cause. Onlookers stood on center campus as they listened to messages from speakers from Barton, the Wilson Police Department and the Wesley Shelter.
President Dr. Douglas Searcy began the event by showcasing his support for ending violence against women and expressing how his mother, wife and daughter have witnessed some form of gender-bias in their lifetimes.
Searcy said gender-based violence in some areas is part of the culture. Even in America, he said forms of objectification are prevalent—through the culture or the media.
“And that’s difficult,” he said. “And it’s days like today where you have a heightened awareness; where you show up and you say that those things are unacceptable. Where you as an institution—as Barton—as Wilson and our community say this is not part of our value systems. And that we will stand for a different value of equality and mutual support and respect.”
Officer Felicia Artis from the Wilson Police Department shared an emotional testimony of domestic abuse she endured.
“I chose to tell my story today because I was one of those women,” she said as her voice quavered. “I went to work every day as if nothing happened, but afraid to go home at night—because I didn’t want to argue over something as simple as ‘I only heard from you like once or twice today, why didn’t you call me today?’”
Artis endured both physical and emotional abuse by a male companion—she did not clarify if it was her husband or boyfriend.
One Sunday morning, she said he got mad for an insignificant reason, pointed her service weapon into her back and pushed her into the back seat of the car. While driving, Artis jumped out of the car in fleet. Someone in traffic stopped his or her car and called the police.
Today, she still suffers from physical and emotional scars.
Artis urged anyone in the audience going through a similar situation to report it without hesitation.
“Don’t be silent,” she said. “Please tell someone, because you never know you might could save your life.”
Marybeth Stephenson, the Wesley Shelter’s volunteer coordinator, said though the majority of women may not experience domestic and sexual abuse—it is their responsibility to stand in solidarity with those who have and to be compassionate.
She talked about how the shelter strives to help battered and abused women. They have an attorney, counselors and advocates on staff to assist these women.
Stephenson extended its services to any female in the crowd dealing with domestic or sexual abuse and in need of support.
“Our door is always open and we’re ready to help anyone and everyone because domestic violence does not discriminate,” she said. “We see all races. We see all socioeconomic backgrounds; everybody who comes through the door has a different background.”
The event concluded with a choreographed dance performed by students and orientation leaders.
Secora Pickett, senior history major, said she was inspired to come to the event simply because of the cause.
“The fact that it’s a flash mob, the dancing and that also it brings attention to something that you don’t think about everyday—sexual abuse,” Picket said.
By: Taylor Baker