NEWBURYPORT — It’s a sobering stat for girls and those who love them, but one in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten at some point in their lives.
The other two-thirds will live in fear of this reality, having known friends or family members whose lives were diminished or snuffed out by violence. And for organizers of an upcoming Valentine’s Day Flash Mob in Market Square, coordinated as part of the One Billion Rising, worldwide anti-violence movement, that’s no way for half the human population to live.
“The whole thing in India really put me over the edge — the rape on the bus and how a rape victim a couple weeks before wasn’t helped by the police, and in fact they suggested she marry one of the rapists,” said Fontaine Dubus, owner of the Dance Place in the Tannery. “Over the years, learning about women who are constantly (under threat) — this is a daily thing for them in parts of the Third World. They can’t even get water without the risk of getting raped or attacked. When I saw the One Billion Rising movement, I thought, ‘I have to do something.’”
The One Billion Rising event, organized internationally by noted author and activist Eve Ensler, calls upon women from every corner of the globe to gather together at the same time and offer a response to the perpetual violence, humiliation and soul-splintering pain that rape brings. But although they will congregate in corners of the globe where honor killings, genital mutilation, acid attacks and unpunished rape are still the norm, the plan is to rise up in a way that does not look back in anger, but instead looks to a joyful future in a way that women have been doing for centuries. The plan is to gather together and dance, to the same choreographed routine, at the same exact time, to the same music, and with the same hope that thousands, maybe millions of people of similar intent can send a message loud and clear that the violence must stop.
“Flash mobs are actually going to be happening all over the world on Feb. 14 (at 5 p.m. EST) and we’re all going to be dancing this dance,” said fellow organizer and dance instructor Tracey Kimball. “The hope is to get one billion women across the globe — women, men, children and anyone who wants to dance, to take a stand against violence.”
Kimball and Dubus are inviting anyone interested in participating in the Rise Up movement on Valentine’s Day to come sample the music and learn the steps laid out by “Fame” alumni/Choreographer Debbie Allen to ready themselves for their four-minute public debut in Market Square. It’s an easy dance that anyone can learn, said Kimball, either through a class she and Fontaine are offering at the Dance Place on Sunday from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and at Latitudes from 2:30 to 4 p.m., or through a tutorial video posted on the One Billion Rising website. The Dance Place rehearsal is open to the public, while the Latitude’s session is open to members of the gym.
“We’re going to teach people the dance and we’re going to just practice it and practice it,” said Kimball. “The song is a little under 4 minutes. Anyone would be able to do it. The song is available on ITunes — it’s called Break the Chain.”
For those who can’t make it this Sunday, Kimball said she’ll be offering another class at the Dance Place on February 10 at 1 p.m. Then four days later, folks will gather in Market Square, and on sidewalks facing the square or wherever they can find room, and rise. Dubus and Kimball are hoping for a large turnout, for the women who suffer violence overseas, and for the women in more modern, westernized countries who suffer domestic violence and rape, and the more covert types of aggression towards women that are prevalent here.
“We take a lot of abuse without really realizing what it is until we get out of it,” said Kimball. “It may not be hitting someone. It may be putting them down and making them feel they’re less than what they are. One Billion Rising is really looking at this as a global issue.”
In India, where the eyes of the world are focused on the death of a 23-year-old medical student brutally raped and beaten while returning from the movies, a shift is occurring in the public’s attitudes that have allowed rapes to go unprosecuted and unpunished for decades. It’s the hope of Eve Ensler, and a host of other celebrities, activists and supportive citizens, that the eyes of the world focus in on all the myriad atrocities being exacted on women everywhere through the One Billion Rising movement. They can count on at least 200 from Newburyport, where Dubus’ Dance Place Troupe and Kimball’s client base and contacts have committed to the effort.
And although the event is aimed at empowering women to rise up, Dubus said men are not only welcome, but encouraged to attend. It’s entire communities that include loving and supportive men that will see to it that change is enacted.
“After the student rape in India they were out in the street by the hundreds and thousands carrying signs saying stop this abuse, respect the people who gave birth to you,” said Dubus. “It’s kind of reassuring there are people getting out there. We need men on our side because there’s a lot of men who feel ashamed that their gender are doing this. We need men who do see this as an abhorrence to stand up for women. A lot of them are.”