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Dealing with excessive charges of sexual violence, Colombia turns to salsa as remedy | Sexual Assault

Dealing with excessive charges of sexual violence, Colombia turns to salsa as remedy | Sexual Assault


Cali, Colombia – As the one sister to 9 brothers, Carmen Diaz loved a boisterous childhood within the port metropolis of Buenaventura, Colombia. Collectively along with her siblings, she would wreak havoc round the home or exit within the streets and kick a ragged ball round for hours.

“I adored taking part in soccer,” mentioned Diaz, who requested to be known as by a pseudonym.

However her joyful, rambunctious childhood got here to an finish when her uncle began to sexually abuse her, she mentioned. The assault continued over a number of events.

When she advised her mother and father about what occurred, they refused to consider her and as a substitute accused her of mendacity. Feeling distraught, Diaz determined to run away from residence on the age of 13.

Diaz ended up sleeping on the streets of the close by metropolis of Cali and have become hooked on medication. Finally, she discovered shelter via the town’s social providers, which linked her with assets for minors.

That’s how she found her lifeline: salsa dancing. It was a part of an experimental remedy challenge run by the native nonprofit, Mi Cuerpo Es Mi Historia, a reputation that interprets to “My physique is my story”.

The challenge combines salsa dancing and psychotherapy to assist survivors of sexual violence categorical their feelings and course of their trauma over the course of a number of months.

“Dancing can assist to heal trauma,” mentioned challenge founder Martha Isabel Cordoba Arevalo, a psychologist and avid dancer who was born and raised in Cali, often known as the world capital of salsa.

“When survivors don’t wish to discuss what occurred to them, or if they don’t seem to be capable of, motion provides them a unique manner of expression.”

Youngsters attend a dance class run by Mi Cuerpo Es Mi Historia in Buenaventura, Colombia [Fanny Aparicio/Al Jazeera]

Over the previous decade, Mi Cuerpo Es Mi Historia has labored with roughly 700 younger women, largely via referrals from metropolis providers. Remedy begins with efficiency courses, specializing in performing, singing or dancing.

Then, the subsequent step is to let individuals discover subjects they selected via efficiency strategies. By the top of the programme, organisers hope the artwork could be an outlet for individuals to grasp and address their experiences.

Recovering from trauma, nonetheless, is rarely simple or simple. Arevalo remembers assembly Diaz, now 28, when she was solely a young person, newly referred to the programme. She noticed that Diaz appeared aggressive — harm by all that she had endured — and didn’t wish to work together with the programme’s psychologists.

“I used to be afraid of males,” mentioned Diaz. “The male psychologists I spoke to, they made me scared.”

However Arevalo quickly found that Diaz had a pure expertise for salsa. Week by week, {the teenager} appeared extra relaxed.

The quick tempo of salsa’s tumbao beat saved Diaz’s thoughts — and her heels — busy, as she flicked throughout the dance flooring, her physique swaying to the sound of trumpets and timbales.

“After I was dancing, I felt free and joyful,” Diaz mentioned. “It was one of the best therapy for me. I don’t really feel like a sufferer any extra. I’m a survivor.”

A rising physique of analysis helps the declare that dance and motion can have advantages for the thoughts, in addition to the physique.

A evaluate of 41 research printed within the journal Frontiers in Psychology in 2019 discovered that dance motion remedy lowered anxiousness and melancholy, “constantly” enhancing associated situations.

Dita Federman, a dance motion therapist who has researched sexual abuse, argues this unconventional therapy technique can attain some sufferers in methods different interventions can not.

“It may be essential in serving to some sufferers,” mentioned Federman. “Dance remedy can result in elevated coronary heart fee, utilizing coordinated motion and steadiness, and what occurs whereas dancing is that persons are extra prone to recall and categorical previous recollections.”

The streets of Cali, Colombia, are a blur of bodies as salsa dancers twist and twirl in a parade.
The town of Cali, Colombia, is legendary for its fast-paced model of salsa dancing, and dancers typically fill the streets for occasions just like the annual Cali Honest [File: Jaime Saldarriaga/Reuters]

However Arevalo cautioned that addressing sexual violence is extraordinarily complicated and that no easy resolution exists.

“You want time and assets, and also you want educated professionals with a view to make deep modifications or restorations of lives,” she mentioned. “Not everybody has that luxurious.”

Federman additionally warned that, in each kind of remedy, there’s a threat of re-traumatisation. Dance isn’t any exception.

“It ought to be performed very slowly, with out immediately questioning [the survivors] for emotional materials,” she mentioned. “If it comes up from them, then it comes up. However it shouldn’t be compelled.”

And whereas there was analysis into its efficacy, Federman mentioned information about dance motion remedy stays restricted due to the issue in acquiring permission to check survivors of sexual violence.

“There’s a lot we don’t but know,” she mentioned.

However proponents consider dance remedy may assist make small steps in responding to the stark ranges of gender-based violence in Colombia.

One third of ladies within the Latin American nation have suffered bodily or sexual violence by the hands of a accomplice, in line with the United Nation’s International Database on Violence.

Colombia’s six-decade-long inner battle has additionally contributed to excessive charges of sexual violence. In September, the Particular Jurisdiction for Peace — a courtroom set as much as examine crimes dedicated in the course of the battle — introduced that at the least 35,178 individuals had suffered gender-based violence between 1957 and 2016.

Proper-wing paramilitary teams have been answerable for the most important variety of incidents, at roughly 33 p.c. Ladies made up the overwhelming majority of the victims, comprising 89 p.c total.

“The our bodies of ladies have been used as a goal of battle,” mentioned Arevalo.

To scale back the danger of re-traumatisation, Arevalo avoids utilizing “direct” dance companions in her classes with younger survivors. As a substitute, the dancers be taught their steps in a bigger, coordinated group. And after they pair up, they typically use a way known as “mirroring”, whereby dancers replicate their accomplice’s strikes at a distance.

Arevalo mentioned there may be additionally loads of room for particular person improvisation in salsa, which could be danced alone in addition to with others.

Two dance instructors stand at the front of a classroom in front of a mirror the size of a wall. As they dance, students behind them mimic their steps.
Sofia Murillo and Alexander Patiño lead a salsa class for vacationers in Cali, Colombia [Peter Yeung/Al Jazeera]

Her nonprofit features a pathway for sexual assault survivors to change into salsa instructors themselves, to allow them to cross alongside their strategies to others — and even arrange their very own enterprise.

Sofia Murillo is among the many graduates of that programme. On a latest December afternoon, she and her fellow trainer Alexander Patiño defined the fundamental salsa steps to about 25 vacationers in a packed dance studio lined with pale yellow and inexperienced tiles.

Cali’s model of salsa is famously fast-paced: Within the Seventies, it grew to become fashionable for DJs to play information at 45 revolutions per minute, a lot faster than the standard pace of 33rpm.

Confronted with Cali’s whip-fast beats — the galloping pulse of the bongos and cowbells seemingly unrelenting — Murillo’s college students struggled to maintain up. Their toe faucets and turns risked turning into collisions and crushed toes.

However by the top of her class, each one of many vacationers was capable of cobble collectively a decent routine.

“I had destructive ideas previously,” mentioned Murillo, 40, who grew to become a salsa trainer in 2023. “I used to be mistreated. However after I’m dancing, it’s totally different. I overlook every little thing. I smile.”

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Written by bourbiza mohamed

Bourbiza Mohamed is a freelance journalist and political science analyst holding a Master's degree in Political Science. Armed with a sharp pen and a discerning eye, Bourbiza Mohamed contributes to various renowned sites, delivering incisive insights on current political and social issues. His experience translates into thought-provoking articles that spur dialogue and reflection.

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