Valentine’s Day, traditionally, is a time to celebrate love. But this year, groups combating violence against women are using the day to "rise up" against abuse. Throughout the world, they are marking the date not just with political demonstrations, but by dancing.
Here’s why. It’s estimated that one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. With the global population reaching 7 billion, that adds up to a billion women. So this worldwide event on Valentine’s Day is called One Billion Rising. But supporters aren’t rising to make angry speeches. They are standing up to dance.
There are video dance lessons with music on the event’s website. At Dartmouth, the dance-a-thon is being organized by the Center for Gender and Student Engagement. Jessica Jennrich is Director. She says it’s time for abuse prevention advocates to do something completely different and very public, all on the same day. Dance, she says, defies worldwide language barriers.
"And people have a tendency to view violence in isolation in the community, in the campus climate, in a country, and this kind of demystifies and breaks down the barriers and focuses on how we are all united in a way around women being oppressed through violence in all these different ways–but entirely as a planet," Jennrich said.
The event will hold special meaning for Dartmouth Philosophy Professor Susan Brison. She was brutally attacked while walking in the French countryside.
"[It was in]1990 when I was jumped from behind and beaten and raped and strangled and raped and left for dead in a ravine," she recalled.
Her assailant was found guilty in court, but after the trial French authorities advised her to "forget about" the crime. Instead, she has written widely and openly about it. She sees the dance event this week as a good way for women and men to assert themselves in a healthy way-as she did, while recovering from her traumatic attack.
"I did self-defense classes but it was really helpful to do tap dancing, which I did badly, because it was loud and it showed the world, that "I’m still here," and I’m taking up space and I’m going to make a lot of noise about it, so this One Billion Rising movement represents all of that to me."
Brison’s book about her experience is called "Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of a Self." In addition to calling worldwide attention to rape, she hopes "One Billion Rising" events will help persuade lawmakers to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act," now working its way through Congress.
The Upper Valley’s "One Billion Rising" dance party begins Thursday at 5:00 pm. It will include a performance by the Dartmouth dance ensemble and a talk by Susan Brison. It kicks off a series of anti-abuse events on campus called "V Week." At least twelve other communities in Vermont are hosting similar events.