SAY SO festival in Port Richmond offers Staten Island victims of sexual assault a chance to speak out and aid others


STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Children flocked to various tables to make origami cranes, jewelry and to get their face painted at the SAY SO Music/Arts Festival.

Adults and children chatted over cupcakes and cookies.

Guests could join in a raffle to win a variety of board games and other prizes, sponsored by Safe Horizon, the nation’s leading victim services organization.The upbeat, happy atmosphere stood in stark contrast to the reason they had gathered yesterday at Faber Park, Port Richmond.

According to Safe Horizon, it is estimated that 

22,000 women and 7,000 men are sexually assaulted each year in New York City.

One in four women and one in 10 men will experience sexual assault in their lifetime. One in five children in America will be sexually assaulted, and 90 percent won’t tell anyone until they are 18.

This year’s theme for SAY SO (Sexual Assault Yearly Speak Out) was “a celebration of healing and recovering from sexual violence.”

“I felt like I didn’t say no,” Amy Edelstein, the rape and sexual assault coordinator for Safe Horizon’s Rape Crisis Program, said on stage, as she read the poem of a sex assault victim. The victim’s account revealed how she wanted to feel strong and retain control by hiding her assault. Safe Horizon encourages those who have been sexually assaulted to speak up, and to know that what happened to them was not their fault. The organization offers counseling services to help survivors heal from their traumatic experiences. The goal is to empower victims.

Many other survivors also shared their story, some through spoken-word, poetry, song or dance.

Survivor Margarita Abadie, who lives in Queens, performed an interpretive dance for the crowd wearing a long, flowing skirt with a belt of beads. “What most helped is music and dance. I owe my life to dance,” she said, after describing her ordeal, which includes rapes and domestic violence, which Safe Horizon helped her through. She embodied the theme of celebration through her liberating dance style.

“I’m a child of God, and I’m a survivor,” Pamela Moore said on stage. It was her first time speaking out about her experiences, which include multiple cases of sexual abuse, and losing custody of her daughter. Safe Horizon is helping her start her new life on Staten Island with her son, while she attempts to reunite with her daughter. She encouraged young people to get an education and stay away from violence and revenge, even when they have been wronged, as she has been.

Natalia Moreno, a survivor, described the goal of Safe Horizons as empowering the survivors to be able to talk about what happened to them, to regain confidence, and “mostly to just feel better about yourself.”

Safe Horizon is an organization that each year helps more than 250,000 victims of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault or any kind of violent crime, every year. They strive to help the victim and their family to heal and rebuild their lives. Resources are free and confidential, and available to anyone. They can be reached at www.safehorizons.org

Melissa Quijano and Christina Bomengo are news reporters for the Advance. They may be reached at mquijano@siadvance.com and cbomengo@siadvance.com.

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