By Sandra Garcia
Special to DNAinfo.com New York
WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Fort Washington Presbyterian Church was filled with women dressed in white wedding gowns Wednesday to honor the anniversary of bride-to-be Gladys Ricart's murder by her jealous ex-boyfriend more than a decade ago.
Some of the women who participated in the 12th Annual Gladys Ricart and Victims of Domestic Violence Memorial Walk were victims of domestic violence, while others were there to memorialize someone they knew.
They all said they were there to advocate against abuse.
“I did not know what domestic violence was,” said Yolanda Ricart, Gladys' sister. “I had never experienced it, so when my sister asked me for help I would just tell her to leave him. This march is very important, to help educate these women that don’t understand the abuse.”
Organizers and participants said they are hopeful some of their work has led to a raised awareness surrounding domestic violence.
“Thirteen years later we aren’t where we want to be, but we are in a different place,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said during a memorial held before the march. “Police take domestic violence much more seriously, they are much more culturally sensitive.”
“I’ve never known what to say about the men that take the lives of these women,” said Quinn, who’s participated in the brides march for nine years. “I do not believe it’s a cultural thing, domestic violence crosses all cultural lines. The element of culture that might exist is that certain communities might be more accepting of the abuse.”
For Cruz Patiño, abuse was a norm in her life.
“I have been a victim of domestic violence since I was 10 years old,” said the Ecuadorian native. “I think we think it’s ok because we see it in our families. In my country violence is almost normal, I think men see it while they are growing up and think it's OK.”
“Ni una mas!” meaning not even one more, Karina Aybar-Jacobs, the new Dominican Women Development Center Director chanted during the memorial.
“We know that we can not simply eradicate domestic violence, but at least we can create a consciousness,” said Aybar-Jacobs.
For Councilmman Ydanis Rodriguez the change starts at home.
“As men we must raise our daughters and model ourselves as the type of men we expect our daughters to be with,” said Rodriguez.
For the Ricart the pain of her sister’s death is still very present.
“I miss my sister every day,” said Yolanda, holding back tears. “The month of September is the hardest month for me, but I have a responsibility to my sister and all the other women we have lost to domestic violence. Maybe the loss of my sister, will save other women.”