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Raising Awareness through Dance: One Billion Rising

One Billion Rising on V-Day at San Francisco C...
One Billion Rising on V-Day at San Francisco City Hall. This V-Day Old Town square will be home to a flashmob full of dancers raising awareness about violence against women.  (Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

Old Town square will be the home to a flash mob Friday night at 6:30 p.m..

Dancers will be dancing for the cause, One Billion Rising, in order to raise awareness about violence against women.

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“The power of dance is incredible, you can join and connect with other individuals, while raising community awareness and gaining personal empowerment. There is something about a community being out there together and although each individual is challenged they can come together and do something great,” said Audrey Swenson, coordinator of Sexual Assault Resource Team Peers (SART) for Poudre School District and Sexual Assault and Victim Advocate center (SAVA).

This is the second year that Fort Collins is putting on this event. Last year they had about 50 people come out and dance and this year they are expecting more, according to Swenson.

“I have been talking to my students through the Poudre School District, SAVA has been reaching out to the community and I believe we’ll have a great turnout,” Swenson said.

According to Swenson, in Fort Collins the residents often are sheltered to what is really happening, but the same things happen here as they do in Denver or in New York City. There are interpersonal issues, sexual violence and even prostitution.

SAVA’s statistics state that across the United States 1/4 women and 1/6 men will experience sexual assault.

One Billion Rising is an event which will bring people together and make an influential statement for one day, according to Swenson. The Fort Collins community offers educational programs, community outreach and have hotlines available all year round like SAVA and Women and Gender Advocacy Center (WGAC).

“We think of the WGAC as two different houses. One of the houses works directly with victims in a totally confidential setting, whereas out other part of WGAC is the educational side,” said Kathy Sisneros, director of the WGAC.

While WGAC is not part of the One Billion Rising program, Sisneros notes WGAC is the place where CSU students can seek help on campus in a place where they offer counseling services in a comfortable environment.

“When we look at the One Billion Rising Program they are doing great things, raising awareness about the violence that has been going on, but we need to look at that and say, imagine one billion men (primarily) not causing that harm,” Sisneros said.

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According to Sisnero, the problem is not the women, the problem is deeply ingrained in our culture and we need to keep disrupting culture by getting men to have that conversation.

WGAC has a Men in the Movement group which brings men together in order to think about what being a man means and how often masculinity and social norms have defined how men are supposed to be rather than what they can be. According to Sisnero, it is movements such as these that will reshape culture for the better putting an end to gender violence.

While WGAC works with student life on campus SAVA is deeply involved in the community. They are involved in community outreach, both at CSU, as well as working in high schools and middle schools in peer groups. They do this in order to break down gender stereotypes and work on prevention of sexual assault according to Kaitlin Johnson, SAVA’s direct service intern.

“SAVA is a victim advocacy center which advocates to help anyone, we don’t turn away anyone due to financial circumstances and also offer a 24 rape hotline,” Johnson said.

Friday night students can help raise awareness by coming out and dancing with other members of the community. Swenson said that students are also encouraged to get involved on campus, as well as being educated of the issues and taking a stand.

“One Billion Rising is not only a statement in itself but also the building of a community through the powerful art of dancing,” Swenson said.

Collegian Reporter Josephine Bush can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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