From Behind Closed Doors

The lace and silk of the white dress that Cruceta Martinez wore as she stood on the steps of the Bronx Courthouse typified the trappings of a summer wedding. Martinez posed and adjusted her tiara as brides do, but it was to illustrate the reason there were fifty other women in wedding dresses: evidenced by the scars on her face, neck and arms from the battery acid her spouse threw on her seven years ago.

For the seventh time the New York Latinas Against Domestic Violence organized “The Brides March” to pay tribute to the victims of domestic violence including Gladys Ricart. It was nine years ago to the day, Sept. 26, Ricart was gunned down by her former boyfriend in her home as she posed for pictures with her bridesmaids. One hundred women, men and children marched for six miles from the Bronx to North Harlem to bring what normally happens behind closed doors into the light of day.

According to the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, there were 71 family related homicides citywide in 2006, 22 in the Bronx. “It’s important that people know what they can do to be free,” said Lucy Pizarro as she adjusted her gown to continue the march. Pizarro said that she had been victimized in Puerto Rico and seeing no other alternative had been planning to kill her husband to end the abuse.

“A woman doesn’t have to put up with it anymore,” said Emily Batista, who works at the Violence Intervention Program. Herself a survivor, Batista became involved she said because for too long she didn’t realize there was any help. Batista recounted a recent instance when a man tried to beat up his wife in the courtroom in front of the guards. “He was attempting to do this in public. He was arrested. He was not understanding the message.”

“This is a cultural problem, not an individual program,” said Kalima Desuze, an organizer at Voices of Women Organizing Project. “This is a patriarchal sexist problem and we need to raise our kids counter to that ideology to create a shift.”

Christian Tejada, 17, agreed. Tejada participated in a summer program for RAPP, Relationship Abuse Prevention Program. “Each of us has to speak out against it. Keep the communication open.” The students who participated in the training go back to their respective schools and act as peer counselors.

Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion met the marchers as they made their way on Grand Concourse. “This is not a woman problem. This is a community program,” Carrion said as he highlighted the borough’s commitment to break the cycle of domestic violence. One of the signs read, “Alza tu voz que no estas sola,” translated to “Raise your voice. You are not alone.”

Sitting on the steps next to a blown up photo of her sister Gladys, Yolanda Ricart looked tired as she ate her lunch on the courthouse steps. “Emotionally it helps me and my family,” she said through a translator. “We have more support from the community than we did seven years ago. The first time we marched, people laughed at us. Today people were clapping and cheering us on. It makes me feel much better and we need to continue doing it.”

As photographers swarmed to take her picture, Cruceta Martinez said very quietly she didn’t want other women to wait until something like what happened to her happened to them.

Cruceta Martinez

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