Home News 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

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,” stated Diaz, who requested to be referred to as by a pseudonym.

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

When she advised her mother and father about what occurred, they refused to imagine her and as a substitute accused her of mendacity. Feeling distraught, Diaz determined to run away from dwelling 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 town’s social companies, 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,” stated 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 need to talk about what occurred to them, or if they aren’t in a position to, motion offers them a unique manner of expression.”

A group of children raise both arms in the air, as they practice salsa dancing in Buenaventura, Colombia.
Kids 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 ladies, largely via referrals from metropolis companies. Therapy begins with efficiency courses, specializing in performing, singing or dancing.

Then, the following step is to let members discover matters they selected via efficiency methods. By the top of the programme, organisers hope the artwork may be an outlet for members to grasp and deal with their experiences.

Recovering from trauma, nevertheless, isn’t straightforward 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 — damage by all that she had endured — and didn’t need to work together with the programme’s psychologists.

“I used to be afraid of males,” stated 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 stored Diaz’s thoughts — and her heels — busy, as she flicked throughout the dance flooring, her physique swaying to the sound of trumpets and timbales.

“Once I was dancing, I felt free and comfortable,” Diaz stated. “It was one of the best remedy 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 overview of 41 research revealed within the journal Frontiers in Psychology in 2019 discovered that dance motion remedy diminished nervousness and melancholy, “constantly” enhancing associated circumstances.

Dita Federman, a dance motion therapist who has researched sexual abuse, argues this unconventional remedy methodology can attain some sufferers in methods different interventions can’t.

“It may be essential in serving to some sufferers,” stated Federman. “Dance remedy can result in elevated coronary heart price, utilizing coordinated motion and stability, and what occurs whereas dancing is that individuals 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 usually fill the streets for occasions just like the annual Cali Honest [File: Jaime Saldarriaga/Reuters]

However Arevalo cautioned that addressing sexual violence is extraordinarily advanced and that no easy answer exists.

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

Federman additionally warned that, in each kind of remedy, there’s a danger of re-traumatisation. Dance is not any exception.

“It ought to be achieved very slowly, with out instantly questioning [the survivors] for emotional materials,” she stated. “If it comes up from them, then it comes up. Nevertheless it shouldn’t be pressured.”

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

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

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

One third of girls within the Latin American nation have suffered bodily or sexual violence by the hands of a accomplice, based on 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 court docket set as much as examine crimes dedicated throughout the battle — introduced that no less than 35,178 folks had suffered gender-based violence between 1957 and 2016.

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

“The our bodies of girls have been used as a goal of conflict,” stated Arevalo.

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

Arevalo stated there’s additionally loads of room for particular person improvisation in salsa, which may 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 develop into salsa instructors themselves, to allow them to move alongside their methods 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 essential 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 Nineteen Seventies, it grew to become fashionable for DJs to play data at 45 revolutions per minute, a lot faster than the standard velocity 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 ft.

However by the top of her class, each one of many vacationers was in a position to cobble collectively a good routine.

“I had destructive ideas up to now,” stated Murillo, 40, who grew to become a salsa trainer in 2023. “I used to be mistreated. However after I’m dancing, it’s completely different. I overlook every part. I smile.”



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