By Alisha McDarris
For Hometown News
MARTIN COUNTY -- All across the world, including in Martin County, men and women gathered together to rise, release, dance and demand justice to bring an end to violence against women.
On Feb. 14 more than 300 people came together in Gazebo Park in Stuart for the One Billion Rising for Justice campaign, a global call for female survivors of violence and those who love them to join together, break their silence and share their stories.
"I think in Martin County we don't realize how prevalent of an issue this is on a global scale," said Olivia Ranieri, the 16-year-old South Fork High School junior who organized the local event.
There were speeches from survivors, local musicians, and lots of dancing, including the world-wide "Break the Chain" dance, at last Friday's event. It was all in an effort to bring awareness to the staggering statistics regarding violence against women.
"One in three women are victims of violence and those numbers are just from reported cases," said Olivia. "The only way to bring an end to it is to raise awareness, to break the cycle of silence."
Olivia first heard about the organization from her English teacher, Kim Ballard, who asked her if she'd be interested in putting together a school-wide event. Before Ms. Ballard knew what had happened, Olivia had contacted the city and was getting permits and permission for a community-wide event.
"She took it so far beyond my teeny-weeny vision," Ms. Ballard said.
Mindi Fetterman, founder and executive director of the Inner Truth Project in Port St. Lucie, was one of the speakers, sharing her story of survival and urging people to open up for healing.
"It's a silent epidemic," Ms. Fetterman said. "It's really important that we have an opportunity to come out and break our silence."
Ms. Fetterman was glad to do so in such a celebratory way.
"I think it's so cool to incorporate something fun like dancing and music to bring awareness to something that's difficult to deal with," Ms. Fetterman said.
The event brought in $600, which will go toward funding programs offered by SafeSpace and The Inner Truth Project. Both organizations provide assistance to women who have suffered from domestic violence or sexual abuse.
To further support the mission of One Billion Rising for Justice and local nonprofit organizations that support their mission, checks can be sent and made out to South Fork High School with "One Billion Rising for Justice Martin County" in the memo line and Olivia's name on the envelope.
The address for the school is 10205 S.W. Pratt Whitney Road, Stuart.