Using peaceful marches to raise awareness of domestic violence

The National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence (Alianza) organizes Domestic Violence Bride’s Marches in order to attract media attention and raise community awareness of domestic violence.

The first Domestic Violence Bride’s March was held in New York City in 2001. It was held in memory of Gladys Ricart, a respected leader in New York’s Dominican community who in 1999 was murdered by her ex-boyfriend Augustin Garcia as she was being photographed with her wedding party. Garcia was sentenced to life in prison without parole, but the incident called attention to the prevalence of domestic violence in minority and immigrant communities. In 2002, a New York City Health Department survey found that 51% of victims of domestic violence were foreign born. Yet domestic violence remains prevalent in all races, cultures, and socioeconomic classes. According to a United States Justice Department report, in 2008 the rate of intimate partner victimizations of females age 12 and older was 4.3 victimizations per 1,000 females, and 64% of female homicide victims were killed by relatives or intimate partners. Victims may fail to report abuse because of fear of the abuser, a desire to protect family privacy, or a lack of awareness of resources. Foreign-born victims may be especially reluctant to report an incident because of the fear of affecting a family member’s or their own immigration status.

Since the first Domestic Violence Bride’s March in 2001, the event has grown significantly. Alianza encourages cities to organize marches on the same day to amplify the impact of the message, providing participants with training materials and support in finding funding. Marches have been successfully organized in Lawrence, MA, Miami, FL, Milwaukee, WI, and Washington, D.C. among other cities. During the marches, women wear bridal gowns and men dress in black.  The bridal gowns honor Ricart, murdered in her wedding dress, and also symbolize a hope for relationships without violence. Participants hold banners, chant slogans, and distribute postcards with information on local domestic violence resources.  Men are encouraged to participate to become positive role models and help break the cycle of abuse.

The direct impact of the Domestic Violence Bride's March is difficult to measure, but it has clear benefits as a peaceful, sustainable, community activity that can help break the silence and build solidarity within communities affected by domestic violence.  The New York march has been successfully organized for fourteen years, and other marches continue to spread through the United States.  In addition to keeping the memories of Ricart and other victims alive, the marches raise awareness of the effects of domestic violence and the resources used to combat it.  Past marches have influenced politicians to enact anti-violence legislation, instigate harsher punishment for offenders, and increase funding for shelters.


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What we can learn from this tactic: 

The original Domestic Violence Bride's March focused on Latino communities, but domestic violence remains prevalent in many cultures, so this tactic could be implemented in communities worldwide. However, organizations must be conscious of safety concerns when organizing a march. In the United States, where the Domestic Violence Bride’s Marches are held, it is acceptable to peacefully demonstrate in public and participants generally need not fear for their safety. This may not be the case in other countries, so organizers must be aware of their specific local situations. In addition, in some places victims who speak out publically against their abusers may have little means to protect themselves. They may be hesitant to participate in a march out of fears for their safety. Nevertheless, if organized and carried out safely, an event like the Domestic Violence Bride’s March can be an opportunity to remember victims, seek redress, and bring awareness to important but otherwise ignored topics.