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Breaking the chains: Students and faculty dance to fight violence against women

February 28th, 2013

On Thursday, Feb. 14, people on John Carroll University’s campus witnessed two flash mobs rallying faculty and students to take a stand for women.

One Billion Rising is a program established by Eve Ensler, an activist known for her play “The Vagina Monologues” (which has been performed at JCU in past years) that raises awareness about the domestic violence against woman including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation and sex slavery. The organization’s official Web page describes One Billion Rising as “a global strike; an invitation to dance; a call to men and women to refuse to participate in the status quo until rape and rape culture end; an act of solidarity, demonstrating to women the commonality of their struggles and their power in numbers; a refusal to accept violence against women and girls as a given; a new time and a new way of being.”

In their quest to put an end to domestic violence, this year the coordinators of the program chose to take a stand by using Valentine’s Day to unite everyone in dance. At random times, groups from all around the globe gathered en mass to put on organized flash mobs for the world to bear witness and be inspired.

Thanks to Amanda Rolf, the coordinator of the Violence Prevention and Action Center, John Carroll proudly joined in on the movement as well, as students and faculty members gathered together to participate in flash mobs both outside of Grasselli Library at 10:50 a.m. and in the Schott Dining Hall at 12:45 p.m. on Feb. 14. Rolf explained that it took some careful planning along with the JCU Dance Ensemble and other staff members to make it happen, but that she was proud to see it all fall into place.

“At the beginning of January, I received an email from Lauren Bowen, associate academic vice president for academic programs and faculty diversity, with the link to the one billion rising website and the questions, ‘Are we planning anything here on campus? Should we? Can I help?’” said Rolf.  “I was so glad she sent me the email; I was familiar with V-Day, but had not yet heard about One Billion Rising. It seemed like such an exciting and creative way to raise awareness about an incredibly important issue. Even though I have two left feet, I was not going to pass up the opportunity to organize an opportunity for John Carroll to unite with a billion others across the world to demand an end to violence,” she added.

It wasn’t just Rolf, however, that put the event together. Junior Olga Graves also left her handprint on the project. “I was first approached with the idea of participating in One Billion Rising by Amanda Rolf. She knows me through my involvement in Students Empowering Women and thought it would be a fun way to bring awareness to campus,” Graves said.

Although it was the work of Rolf and Graves that brought the One Billion Rising flash mob idea to campus and put it into action, it also took the participation of a handful of students willing to step out of the box and dance.

Freshman Jackie DiFrangia was one student who showcased her moves on Valentine’s Day, excitedly explaining that she thought the flash mobs went very well.

“Dancing outside of the library and in the dining hall was so much fun,” DiFrangia said. “When we were outside of the library, I saw a bunch of people walking by and looking back at us dancing away. In the dining hall, everyone had their phones out taking pictures and videos because it was just such a cool experience. I would definitely do it again.”

That was an attitude that Rolf and Graves shared as well, and they both expressed their eagerness to organize more opportunities at JCU that raise awareness about the issue of domestic violence toward women.

“There are several more events coming up this semester including a film screening, a march and speak out, bystander intervention training and some passive programming,” added Rolf.

“Students can anticipate seeing the message of One Billion Rising carried on throughout the semester. So be on the look out for upcoming events in the spring,” Graves said.

The message campus received on Feb. 14 isn’t going away anytime soon, as on-campus groups – including Take Back the Night, Students Empowering Women, the Arrupe Scholars, the student activism projects through the Philosophy of Love and Sex class and events coordinated through the Violence Prevention and Action Center – look to continue addressing this worldwide problem throughout the semester.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a safe campus for everyone – a campus where survivors are supported and bystanders step up and intervene to prevent future incidents from occurring,” Rolf said.

The video of JCU’s One Billion Rising flash mobs can be seen at www.jcu.edu/vpac.