District Attorney George Gascón speaks at an event for One Billion Rising for Justice.
Prior to a domestic violence homicide in January, none had occurred in San Francisco for more than three and a half years — “unprecedented for any place,” according to The City’s police chief. Still, city leaders on Wednesday announced support for the global One Billion Rising for Justice campaign aimed at ending violence against women and girls.On Valentine’s Day, The City will host its second One Billion Rising for Justice Day on the steps of City Hall, in solidarity with 179 countries. The campaign, focused this year on justice for survivors of gender violence and sexual assault, began as a call to action given that an average of one in three women in the world will be beaten or raped during their lifetimes.“So long as that continues, we have to stand up and say we will not tolerate this violence,” District Attorney George Gascón said at a news conference in the Hall of Justice. “Last year, we had an incredible event with thousands of people and this year we expect to double that amount.” The problem might appear less acute in San Francisco, where the last domestic violence homicide took place May 2010, until an incident last month with a homeless couple. A man hit a woman, who later died of her injuries, Police Chief Greg Suhr said.

“Rather than celebrate 43 months without any [domestic violence fatalities], the burden is we just had one,” he said. “That’s the old mark now.” Suhr said fear prevents many victims from reporting sexual and physical abuse, so the Police Department in October 2011 formed a Special Victims Unit to provide professional service to them and their families.

Though the department has made great strides, “we have a lot of work to do,” said Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who on Tuesday introduced a resolution reaffirming The City’s commitment to the justice campaign and declaring Feb. 14 as One Billion Rising for Justice Day. The Board of Supervisors will vote on the resolution Tuesday.

The gathering planned at City Hall at 4 p.m. on Valentine’s Day will include music, dance and women sharing their stories, including Silvia Vasquez-Lavado, a survivor of rape. “It took many years to let go of the shame and lack of self-love,” she said, adding the event “allows many of us who never saw justice to stand up and speak up.” Beyond that, the District Attorney’s Office, activist group V-Day and Department of the Status of Women are holding their first free legal clinic targeting domestic violence and sexual assault victims on March 1 at Hastings College of the Law.