Tonight, three FGCU students will take turns sitting on a chair on the top step of the Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center. Echoing the effect that the Sanborn light sculpture has on the Art Center’s facade, a projector will illuminate each woman’s body with words and phrases they will repeat aloud – the unspoken words of the victims of domestic violence. But this performance art piece is interactive. The words and phrases will come from the audience.
“We are asking the audience to step up, choose a word, write the word, and their handwriting will project on our bodies… then we will repeat that word 100 times, counting our words with the beads in our hands,” explains FGCU student Leila Mesdaghi. “Our voices will be the voices of the victims of domestic violence. We are asking the audience to get involved, speak out, write, and project their message on our bodies to tie them to our piece…repetition will mentally remove us from the physical stage and move us to a different dimension. We are praying but in a non-traditional way. We will be sending out our message to the skies, the world, and hope to make a difference… hopefully we touch some people and make a difference!”
Also taking part in the performance art piece are Francis Rojas and Brianda Martinez.
The trio hopes to raise awareness of domestic violence. Their initiative is part of a Civic Engagement class the three women are taking with FGCU Professor Jackie Salmond.
Mesdaghi, Martinez and Rojas are partnering with ACT (Abuse Counselling & Treatment),the non-profit agency that provides safe shelter and counselling services to victims of domestic violence (and their children), survivors of sexual assault (and their families) and the new and temporarily homeless.ACT also provides a 24-hour crisis hotline, forensic examinations, advocacy, education, information and referrals. The agency was incorporated in 1978 and serves Lee, Hendry and Glades counties.
They are also asking the audience to reach into their pockets and make a donation to help ACT help those in need.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families. In New York City, 25% of homeless heads of household became homeless due to domestic violence. “So often, people in abusive relationships just don’t know where to go for help,” artist Christine Reichow sagely noted during August’s Arts for ACT fine art auction fundraiser. She donates art each year for the auction because ACT is one place where domestic violence victims can turn for support.
Last year, Lee County experienced 2,770 reported domestic violence related offences. Five resulted in murder; 386 in aggravated assault; and 2,275 in simple (?) assault. Of these, 618 people stayed in one of ACT’s two shelters, which only have a total of 90 beds. Their average stay was eight weeks. ACT answered more than 11,800 hotline calls, provided counselling services to more than 4,100 people, and its rape crisis center performed between 75 and 100 rape exams. On top of all this, ACT provided public education and an intervention group to help batterers control their violent behavior.
You can do your part tonight by showing up between 6 and 10 p.m. at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, selecting a word, writing it on the projector and making a donation. Leila, Brianda and Francis will appreciate it. The victims of domestic violence and their families who are helped by ACT will appreciate it. More, those who don’t become victims or who leave abusive relationships will appreciate it too. Heightened awareness of domestic violence may even save a life.