Dealing with substantial fees of sexual violence, Colombia turns to salsa as remedy | Sexual Assault

Ora Sawyers

Cali, Colombia – As the only sister to 9 brothers, Carmen Diaz savored a boisterous childhood in the port city of Buenaventura, Colombia. Together with her siblings, she would wreak havoc all-around the house or go out in the streets and kick a ragged ball about for hrs.

“I adored playing football,” claimed Diaz, who requested to be referred to as by a pseudonym.

But her joyful, rambunctious childhood arrived to an end when her uncle commenced to sexually abuse her, she reported. The assault ongoing about numerous situations.

When she informed her mothers and fathers about what occurred, they refused to imagine her and in its place accused her of lying. Experience distraught, Diaz made the decision to run absent from household at the age of 13.

Diaz ended up sleeping on the streets of the close by metropolis of Cali and grew to become addicted to medication. Finally, she discovered shelter as a result of the city’s social solutions, which connected her with sources for minors.

Which is how she uncovered her lifeline: salsa dancing. It was element of an experimental therapy challenge run by the community nonprofit, Mi Cuerpo Es Mi Historia, a identify that interprets to “My body is my story”.

The job combines salsa dancing and psychotherapy to enable survivors of sexual violence convey their thoughts and procedure their trauma in excess of the program of several months.

“Dancing can assist to heal trauma,” explained task founder Martha Isabel Cordoba Arevalo, a psychologist and avid dancer who was born and raised in Cali, regarded as the world money of salsa.

“When survivors do not want to converse about what happened to them, or if they are not capable to, motion presents them a unique way of expression.”

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

In excess of the earlier 10 years, Mi Cuerpo Es Mi Historia has labored with roughly 700 youthful girls, primarily through referrals from town providers. Remedy starts off with general performance classes, focusing on performing, singing or dancing.

Then, the future step is to enable contributors take a look at matters they selected as a result of performance approaches. By the conclude of the programme, organisers hope the art can be an outlet for contributors to recognize and cope with their encounters.

Recovering from trauma, on the other hand, is never simple or easy. Arevalo remembers conference Diaz, now 28, when she was only a teen, freshly referred to the programme. She observed that Diaz appeared aggressive — damage by all that she experienced endured — and did not want to interact with the programme’s psychologists.

“I was concerned of adult men,” stated Diaz. “The male psychologists I spoke to, they designed me scared.”

But Arevalo before long uncovered that Diaz experienced a normal expertise for salsa. Week by 7 days, the teenager appeared additional peaceful.

The rapid rate of salsa’s tumbao conquer saved Diaz’s mind — and her heels — busy, as she flicked across the dance flooring, her entire body swaying to the seem of trumpets and timbales.

“When I was dancing, I felt free and delighted,” Diaz mentioned. “It was the best cure for me. I never sense like a sufferer any extra. I am a survivor.”

A rising overall body of study supports the claim that dance and motion can have positive aspects for the thoughts, as nicely as the physique.

A overview of 41 scientific studies posted in the journal Frontiers in Psychology in 2019 located that dance motion treatment decreased nervousness and despair, “consistently” improving upon similar circumstances.

Dita Federman, a dance motion therapist who has researched sexual abuse, argues this unconventional remedy approach can reach some patients in approaches other interventions are not able to.

“It can be critical in helping some individuals,” reported Federman. “Dance remedy can direct to greater coronary heart fee, utilizing coordinated movement and balance, and what transpires when dancing is that people are additional possible to recall and convey past memories.”

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 well-known for its fast-paced brand of salsa dancing, and dancers usually fill the streets for activities like the annual Cali Reasonable [File: Jaime Saldarriaga/Reuters]

But Arevalo cautioned that addressing sexual violence is extremely advanced and that no basic resolution exists.

“You have to have time and resources, and you require trained experts in order to make deep modifications or restorations of lives,” she reported. “Not every person has that luxury.”

Federman also warned that, in every single variety of remedy, there is a chance of re-traumatisation. Dance is no exception.

“It ought to be carried out very slowly but surely, without having specifically questioning [the survivors] for emotional material,” she reported. “If it arrives up from them, then it comes up. But it should not be forced.”

And though there has been investigation into its efficacy, Federman explained knowledge about dance movement therapy stays constrained due to the fact of the trouble in getting permission to analyze survivors of sexual violence.

“There’s so a great deal we really do not however know,” she claimed.

But proponents consider dance remedy could help make modest methods in responding to the stark stages of gender-primarily based violence in Colombia.

One particular third of girls in the Latin American nation have suffered actual physical or sexual violence at the palms of a associate, according to the United Nation’s World wide Database on Violence.

Colombia’s six-ten years-long inside conflict has also contributed to significant costs of sexual violence. In September, the Particular Jurisdiction for Peace — a court docket established up to look into crimes fully commited all through the conflict — introduced that at least 35,178 folks had experienced gender-based mostly violence between 1957 and 2016.

Proper-wing paramilitary groups were dependable for the major amount of incidents, at approximately 33 percent. Females manufactured up the wide majority of the victims, comprising 89 p.c total.

“The bodies of girls have been utilised as a goal of war,” stated Arevalo.

To minimize the threat of re-traumatisation, Arevalo avoids employing “direct” dance associates in her sessions with young survivors. As an alternative, the dancers master their ways in a greater, coordinated team. And when they pair up, they normally use a approach termed “mirroring”, whereby dancers replicate their partner’s moves at a length.

Arevalo explained there is also a great deal of area for personal improvisation in salsa, which can be danced on your own as properly as with other folks.

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 course for vacationers in Cali, Colombia [Peter Yeung/Al Jazeera]

Her nonprofit includes a pathway for sexual assault survivors to come to be salsa instructors them selves, so they can go together their strategies to many others — or even set up their individual company.

Sofia Murillo is between the graduates of that programme. On a latest December afternoon, she and her fellow instructor Alexander Patiño discussed the primary salsa actions to about 25 travelers in a packed dance studio lined with pale yellow and inexperienced tiles.

Cali’s manufacturer of salsa is famously quickly-paced: In the 1970s, it turned well known for DJs to participate in data at 45 revolutions for every minute, considerably more quickly than the common pace of 33rpm.

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

But by the conclusion of her course, each and every a single of the tourists was equipped to cobble together a respectable plan.

“I had unfavorable ideas in the earlier,” stated Murillo, 40, who grew to become a salsa teacher in 2023. “I was mistreated. But when I’m dancing, it’s diverse. I overlook all the things. I smile.”

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