Activism against violence against women

WEAVE: Activism against violence against women

Huard, Kate

WEAVE: Activism against Violence against Women

I am a member of WEAVE (Women’s Energy Against ViolencE — the capital at the end of violence stands for the beginning of the end of violence. WEAVE is a grassroots, community based collective of women whose mission it is to end violence against women, children and others who are in an oppressed position. Because of the nature of the work we are doing, it is important that we work in a way that sets an example for what we believe. WEAVE is about empowerment.

WEAVE was created in 1982 by Nancy Sawyer and Donna Stewart, two dedicated women from Worcester, Massachusetts. WEAVE is not a 501(c)3. Our consensus at this time is that becoming a 501(c)3 and applying for grants makes us more indebted to the patriarchy than we care to be. Many of our more radical endeavors would not have been possible if we had to worry about losing our funding. We also feel that applying for funding and justifying our work in terms of numbers and statistics and monthly reports wastes energy better spent making a difference. Funders too often aren’t interested in things that challenge the status quo. Charity looks better on paper than justice does, and doesn’t make the fundamental change necessary to put us out of business.

Once an organization becomes a 501(c)3 and starts hiring staff, hierarchy develops, careers are made, and those who could really benefit from empowerment become alienated and disenfranchised because they are not “qualified” for paid employment according to patriarchal academia that totally ignores what is learned from the very experience of battering, rape, incest, poverty, and homelessness. Women become “clients” and “caseloads” vulnerable to invasion by male dominated legal systems and social service agencies. WEAVE is not about social service. WEAVE is about activism.

Any woman can facilitate the process of learning and achievement. We all have something to offer and things to learn. Leadership will manifest as individuals are empowered to seek their own strengths. Members volunteer on the basis of interest and willingness to learn, not necessarily expertise.

WEAVE operates more on women’s energy than on money. We do a mailing once a year to raise energy in terms of money and membership. All of our members are volunteer. We have a 500 member mailing list, and active participation varies depending on what we are working on.

We believe in the power of Positive Creative Energy. Negative Energy is draining and does not create the healing effect of empowerment that is so important to the work we do.

We are most known for our annual Take Back the Night march and rally. Taking back the night is a big job that requires all the energy we can get. Take Back the Night marches and rallies have been held in the United States since 1978. The first Take Back the Night march was held in San Francisco, sponsored by Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW). Similar marches have also been held in Europe. Take Back the Night marches focus on women’s right to freedom of movement, the right to control what happens to our bodies and our lives. A woman is beaten every 18 seconds in the United States. A woman is raped every five minutes. 1 out of 20 natural fathers and 1 out of 5 stepfathers are incestuously involved with their child(ren). Approximately 50% of sexual assaults occur in the victim’s home. In the case of sexual assault, 97% of assailants are male. The FBI estimates that every year 4 million women are victims of domestic violence.

Violence against women is endemic in our society, with its roots in the burning, drowning and boiling in oil of thousands of women during the Inquisition. We Take Back the Night to take back our lives, our bodies, and our herstory.

Decisions about Take Back the Night are made at meetings by those in attendance and cannot be overturned at succeeding meetings. Attendance at meetings is crucial. Members will not be volunteered without their permission. The words “yes” and “no” are very important at meetings and need to be spoken and heard.

WEAVE energy can make dreams come true. Other projects we have taken on include creating a float for the Worcester St. Patrick’s Day Parade. We have presented information at the Clark University Peace Fair, and at the Earth Day festival sponsored by Worcester County’s Regional Environmental Council. We have presented at the Central Mass Health Care Family Wellness Day.

We created a Sexual Assault Speakout for survivors who named their perpetrators at Worcester’s Crystal Park. That same week we sponsored a Recovery Art Exhibit at Worcester’s Anna Maria College. We ran a film series for about a year at Worcester State College.

We sponsored a panel discussion around sexual assault and disclosure in school to support a student who was raped by her teacher at Worcester’s Notre Dame Academy, and then “raped” again by the school administration, including the principal, who ordered buttons to support the teacher that were worn in school by students and staff.

In October we presented a workshop in Providence, Rhode Island, for Survivor Connections, an organization founded by Frank Fitzpatrick, who is a survivor of clergy abuse.

More important, WEAVE is a circle of friends that is always growing. Violence and abuse are weapons designed to keep us down and break our spirit. WEAVE is a spirit of healing that will not die.

Copyright Off Our Backs, Inc. Dec 1995

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