As domestic abuse is highlighted extensively in the media, one Linlithgow based dancer is hoping she can help tackle the major issue locally.
Denise Stephani (45) of Belsyde Court, Linlithgow Bridge, originally hails from South Africa. Earlier on this year, she detailed her life in the autobiographical, ‘In The Wings’, where she talks about growing up with a dictatorial father and finding an escape through dance. As a ballerina she toured the world, but her experience of violence within her family, and the reality of apartheid in South Africa, spurred her on to branch out into education.
She said: “In my book, I look at violence in the home and the effect it has on children and those who have survived abuse.
“I was in South Africa in the late 1990s, and at that time the country was being called the ‘rainbow nation’. But there was also a lot of violence going on and it had a profound effect on the children.”
Denise teaches dance workshops and, through her work with local children, a project was devised where the kids were asked to write a letter to the president at the time - Nelson Mandela. Security was such that the letters and drawings were never delivered to the statesman, but Denise collated them all into another book - ‘Letters to Mandela’ which includes children’s pictures and poems on peace and violence. Her vision is that the book will be used by schools as an educational resource, and an audio version is in the pipeline.
Denise, an expert in ballet and yoga, added: “This is about raising awareness of violence, abuse, and its effect on society. I have contacted West Lothian Council about doing school talks and educating on child protection issues. Society really needs to be educated, so it’s something we can deal with. It needs to be explained.”
All proceeds from In The Wings and Letters to Mandela will go to the Butterfly Haven Children’s Fund, set up by Denise for educational projects.