Domestic violence survivors, advocates, family members and community leaders led by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito set out from Glendale Saturday to take part in the 15th annual Gladys Ricart and Victims of Domestic Violence Memorial Brides’ March in the Bronx.
“We’re bringing attention to the fact that women are getting killed at the hands of their lovers,”Crowley said. “Domestic violence is the number one call that our police will go on, but it’s a crime that people don’t like to talk about and very often it goes unreported. We want to make sure that we don’t have another woman die at the hands of her lover.”
The annual citywide march originally began in Manhattan back in 2001 to honor Gladys Ricart, a Dominican-American woman who was murdered in her wedding dress by her abusive ex-boyfriend shortly before she was to wed her fiancé on Sept. 26, 1999.
The inspiration for the march came from Josie Ashton, a young woman so moved by Ricart’s murder that she decided to make the 1,600-mile trek from New York to her home state of Florida on foot while wearing her wedding gown in 2001, marking the second anniversary of Ricart’s death.
Saturday marked the first time a contingent from Queens participated in the Brides’ March.
“Domestic violence continues to be the highest reported crime in this precinct and in this borough,” Crowley said. “In this community alone, in the very neighborhood that you are standing in, there have been 2,649 reported cases of domestic violence this year alone. In all of Queens, there have been over 14,000 reported incidents this year, and those are just the reported cases. Nobody should feel trapped in their own home.”
“We need to have these events as a way of highlighting this problem and challenge in our community,” Mark-Viverito added. “The numbers are alarming. It’s happening throughout the city.”
Crowley and Mark-Viverito were joined by marchers clad in white bridal gowns and veils in Ricart’s memory. Many held signs calling for an end to domestic violence, while some shared their own personal experiences and stories of survival.
“I think that domestic violence is far too common,” explained local poet and singer Taina Delamar. “I grew up in a household that was full of domestic violence and unfortunately a lot of my family members have been affected by it. There’s a lot of stigma attached to it, and for that reason a lot of women are hesitant to speak out and ask for help.”
“Twenty years ago, I was in a violent relationship and there was no support like this,” Ortiz explained. “I almost died from staying in that relationship. He kicked me and tried to stab me, but I survived for my son. Absolutely no one would help me. It touches my heart to know that there’s help now.”
After the rally, Crowley led the group of marchers down Woodhaven Boulevard to Queens Center Mall, where the group boarded an R train to join the large Bride’s March in the Bronx.