Violence against women isn’t talked about openly. Those who have suffered through it often endure in silence; they don’t tell anyone about it. Yet, according to statistics published by the United Nations in 2006, one in every three women worldwide will be sexually abused or beaten at some point in her life. That equates to approximately one billion women and girls.
And that statistic led to One Billion Rising, a global human rights campaign that began last year. It was the brainchild of Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues and founder of “V-Day,” a movement that she started 16 years ago to raise awareness of violence against women and girls in an effort to end it. Ensler upped the ante last year, creating the One Billion Rising 2013 campaign, asking women everywhere to gather together on “V-Day,” February 14, to dance in solidarity to the stirring anthem “Break the Chain” in their own communities. New Paltz was among them.
Now the same local organizers who put together last year’s New Paltz Rising have morphed into Hudson Valley Rising, preparing for a reprise of the event to be held this year on campus at SUNY-New Paltz on Friday, February 14. A “speak-out” and flash mob dance begins at 4 p.m. in front of the Administration Building outside the Atrium. Afterward, a dance will be held inside the multipurpose room (MPR) in the Student Union Building. (In the event of extreme weather that day, meet inside the MPR.)
The speak-out is an informal open mic, where anyone can speak out about why they’re rising, says Corinna Coracci, director of Residence Life at SUNY-New Paltz and one of the local organizers. At last year’s event, she organized a flash mob dance on campus while another group danced on Main Street; this year they’re uniting as one and holding a singular event on the SUNY campus.
“It’s not a protest,” Coracci says. “It’s about empowerment.” It’s also a historic event in which to participate, she adds. “New Paltz is getting together with the rest of the world. Every one of us plays a part.”
The organizers held rehearsals for the flash mob dance a week ago, and while those are over for this year, those who missed the sessions can still learn the dance through instructional videos on the website www.onebillionrising.org and on YouTube. And whether people are interested in doing the flash mob dance themselves or not, says Coracci, everyone is invited to attend. “Come out and watch,” she says. “It’s for the entire community – not just students and not just women, but also the men who love them.”
Organizer Johanna Longbotham says that they would love to see the day when boys dance alongside the girls at the annual One Billion Rising events. “We haven’t gotten to that point yet, but so much of it comes down to education. How fabulous would it be to have boys raised up in a world where they realize that [violence against women] is completely unacceptable?”
In the meantime, says organizer Mary Goggin, they’re gratified to see more young girls this year come out to dance alongside their mothers and other women in the community.
Longbotham agrees. “The song we dance to is very powerful, and when you see young girls doing the dance, you realize it’s sort of changing them at the cellular level to not accept violence in their own lives. People can certainly change the course of their lives when they get older, but to go into it at a young age, looking around at strong people in the community who all believe this is something that shouldn’t happen to you – for a young girl, that’s tremendously powerful.”
Dance as a form of solidarity came into the picture through Ensler’s work in the Congo, where the author and activist helped raise funds to build a healing center there, says Goggin. “The women danced, and she experienced this incredible way of healing and bringing women together; it’s the life-affirming power of movement and celebration of the body, spirit and soul.”
The speak-out and flash mob event at SUNY-New Paltz will also have information available on ways in which people can support local women and children’s domestic violence shelters and female and child anti-violence movements locally and throughout the world.
“It’s really about breaking the isolation that comes with silence, on all levels,” says Longbotham. “Women who experience violence don’t talk about it; they don’t know how to share it. But when the silence is broken, it’s less likely to happen again.”
One Billion Rising Speak-out & Flash Mob Dance, Friday, February 14, 4 p.m., AB/SUB Plaza, SUNY-New Paltz, 1 Hawk Plaza, New Paltz; (845) 702-4506, Hudson Valley Rising on www.facebook.com.
Here are some other One Billion Rising local events
Friday, February 14, 4 p.m.: One Billion Rising flash mob dance with the Grace Smith House in front of Family Court at 50 Market Street in Poughkeepsie. No dance experience or skill is required to participate, and signs with statistics are available to hold for those interested in joining but not dancing. For rehearsal and additional event information, visit www.facebook.com/gracesmithhouseinc or contact Himali Pandya at firstname.lastname@example.org or Monica Idema at email@example.com, as well as www.gracesmithhouse.org. To learn the “Break the Chain” dance choreography, visit www.onebillionrising.org.
Thursday, February 13, 6 p.m.: One Billion Rising flash mob dance with Safe Homes Orange County at the Galleria at Crystal Run, located at 1 North Galleria Drive in Middletown. Wear red, pink and black. For more information, contact Inaudy Esposito at (845) 562-5365, extension 104, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the organizers, visit www.safehomesorangecounty.org. To learn the “Break the Chain” dance choreography, visit www.onebillionrising.org.