Activists aim to raise domestic violence awareness

Women rally against domestic violence / Photo by Sarah Arkin

A rally in Pilsen today drew 150 purple-wearing activists, who marched 15 blocks as part of a month-long nationwide campaign to raise domestic violence awareness.

In addition to marching from the National Museum of Mexican Art to the Pilsen Little Village Community Mental Health Center, women from the dance group Nahuali performed a traditional Mexica (pronounced Meshica) danza.

The second annual "Silent Too Long; Silent No More" rally was heavy on purple, the color that the anti-domestic violence movement has taken to represent its efforts.

In Chicago, police answered almost 205,000 domestic-violence related calls in 2006, according to a report on the city's website.

With an average of over 50 calls per day, Englewood has the highest reported rate of domestic violence cases, the report says. In Pilsen last year, the district reported receiving between 10 and 19 calls a day, but organizers of Friday's march say numbers don't reflect the whole story.

"In a predominantly Hispanic community, there are many illegal immigrants," said Veronica Barraga, 37, of the Pilsen Little Village Community Health Center. "Many women are afraid of going to the police because of (their legal status)," she said.

Ana Diaz de Leon, 36, who works at Federación de Hidalguenses, another participating organization, said the problem goes beyond fear of authorities.

"Men often threaten women by keeping their immigration papers, or by telling them they will go to jail if they report any abuse because they are immigrants," she said.

Many organizations, including Chicago's Greenhouse shelter,  offer support to abused women throughout the Chicago area, regardless of legal status. Services include mental-health and substance-abuse counseling.

But budgets are tight, Barraga said. The domestic violence program at the Pilsen Little Village Community Health Center has a $50,000 budget, from a combination of state, local and federal sources. But Barraga fears that this year, like last year, the money will run short.

Organizers said the rally was designed both to raise awareness and empower abused women. The choice of Pilsen as a staging ground reflects the added burdens Hispanic women face.

With a traditional flower ceremony and dance, the Nahuali dance group reinforced the cultural connection.

Members of the group called on those present to dedicate their energy to minimizing violence.