BARSTOW • From a gymnasium at Barstow High School to hundreds of cities across the globe, people danced to send a message opposing domestic violence.
Five young women ages 12 to 14 took a symbolic stance in a dance number titled, "Break the Chain."
"For teenagers, one in three relationships is going to be abusive," said Eunice Vargas, program coordinator from Desert Sanctuary. "So I think the message we're going to dance to today is very important because our teenagers are important. They're our future."
Desert Sanctuary organized the Thursday event and has helped battered women in Barstow since 1982. The organization began as a task force and has since grown into a 15-bed, 24-hour, six-month shelter for female victims and their children. They also offer a separate outreach center with business offices, rooms for special classes and a thrift shop.
"This is V-day. This is one billion rising. This is globally an effort for all people women, children, young girls, young boys, to dance, to honor and to recognize one billion victims of intimate partner violence, domestic violence and sexual assault," said Desert Sanctuary Director Peggi Fries.
A crowd of parents and Desert Sanctuary staff in purple T-shirts stood by and cheered as the teens danced; one young woman twirled in a series of pirouettes as the other four dancers stood with arms raised.
"Hopefully, everybody is going to get up and do something," Fries said before the performance began.
First Lt. Nicole Myers came to represent the Sexual Harassment Response and Prevention program for the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Irwin.
"We're looking to build partnerships within the community with civilian prevention organizations and just have a coalition," Myers said.
Myers said Desert Sanctuary provides services for 15 victims a year from Fort Irwin, for people who aren't comfortable using the military system.
"I know we rely on the community and we want to show our support as well," she said. "It's giving voice to the issue and people coming together standing up and saying that it's not acceptable. I think that is what it's about. It's almost like a protest."
Christy Younes, a victim advocate for the Family Advocacy Program at Fort Irwin, stood by a table with an array of pamphlets.
"We try to reach out to all of our military soldiers and family members so that they know what services are available and what resources are out there," Younes said. "One of those ways is to come to these events so that we can speak to individuals that may have questions."
The teenagers also performed their dance for Barstow Mayor Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre and the rest of the City Council in a meeting on Feb. 4. The One Billion Rising campaign was recognized internationally on Feb. 14. The entire month of February is designated as Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month.
Contact Brooke Self at BSelf@DesertDispatch.com or (760) 256-4123.