According to the NJ State Police Uniform Crime Report on Domestic Violence in 2014, there were 5,940 domestic violence offenses/arrests in Essex County—the most of any county in New Jersey. In Newark, there were 2,728 domestic violence offenses/arrests. (East Orange: 1,081, Irvington: 671, Orange: 176). Essex County also consistently ranks in the top three counties in New Jersey for the number of domestic violence related homicides each year.
The statistics alone are a compelling reason why ongoing domestic violence awareness is needed. “Domestic violence against women can no longer be a secret,” emphasized Virginia Hammer, Founder of the Newark-based, Midlantic Theatre Company that staged their first production, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Newark in 2011 and more recently in 2016.
Virginia is also the Artistic Director who is bringing Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues to Newark. On February 11th 8pm, 18th 8pm, and 19th 3pm the show will be performed at Kilkenny’s Alehouse (27 Central Avenue, Newark). Doors open one hour before each show. Tickets can be purchased at the door with proceeds benefitting Purple Reign and My Sister’s Lighthouse. Two local and very important agencies serving women affected by domestic violence.
Now more than ever, society needs strong and fierce women to stake claim by taking the lead and change the existing ways to make this world violence free and better for all. The ensemble is made up of local actresses and activists; some including this writer who once were victims but now consider themselves to be survivors.
Nie Victoria of Paterson. Nie Victoria is an ‘actress, mother, sister, aunt, daughter, and granddaughter’ who also “has been a fan of the Vagina Monologues since the 90s.” She decided to be in this performance as a way of raising her voice for abused women. “I wanted to give back to the women who are abused because I too am a survivor.”
When this writer went through her first experience with domestic violence, it wasn’t talked about much. I used to think abuse was just physical and then I learned it was more than that. Abuse can be also psychological, emotional, sexual, and economical. As I began to educate myself on this worldwide epidemic, I did not feel as alone as I did before. I sought help and committed myself to helping others find the resources that can help them either cope while remaining in their abusive relationships or finding resources once they leave. Domestic violence affects everyone. I actively maintain a Facebook page, publish my stories, and now through my performances in this production.
Lil Rhee, a “40 something” New York based Comedic Actress was asked by Ms. Hammer to join the cast and immediately agreed. “It’s a worthwhile cause and want to spread the word.”
Another actress making their acting debut is Newark resident Kisha Gordon. By day, Kisha, 39 is a second grade teacher in the North Ward. Her friend, Tony Villanueva, a Graphic Artist, also from Newark designed the fabulous posters for this show. Tony told her about it and encouraged her to perform. Kisha jumped at the chance. “I consider myself a strong woman and surround myself by strong women.”
But sometimes, admitting you are going through something like this may be difficult. Or you have no one to turn to. There is a lot of stigma attached to domestic violence, but if you or a loved one is in need of support, there is help available. Visit http://www.thehotline.org or call 1-800-799-7233 or1-800-787-3224(TTY). It is advised not to contact from computers and phones that the abusers have access to.