Dancing Past Trauma: One Billion Rising

Pat Shelly

Dancing through Trauma: 1 Billion Rising

Blog 1billionrisingLOGOfirst

Here is the math:

There are 7  billion people on this planet.

Half are women and girls – around 3.5 billion people.

One  out of three females will experience a sexual assault in her lifetime.

3.5 billion divided by 3 = 1.6666 billion.

How  does a society address the reality of 1/3 of its members undergoing this trauma?

Here is one way:

On Friday, February 14, 2014, women around the world will be dancing in the streets.

What’s the celebration? It is the expression of a different kind of love on this Valentine’s Day, a love of our/women’s endurance and survival and capacity for joy in the face of the global epidemic of gender-based violence.

 

ONE BILLION RISING FOR JUSTICE is a global call to women survivors of violence and those who love them to gather…It is a call to survivors to break the silence and release their stories – politically, spiritually, outrageously – through art, dance, marches, ritual, song, spoken word, testimonies and whatever way feels right.” (onebillionrising, 2014)

The first global dance was held in 2013. Founded through the V-Day global movement, begun by playwright and author Eve Ensler (“Vagina Monologues”), V-Day and One Billion Rising address the need to go public with the stories of the billion+  women who have experienced sexual violence.

Here is a short video of 2013 One Billion Rising events around the world. The colorful dress, music, street theater, and collective action create a sense of indomitable strength:

The energy is contagious!

So, what is One Billion Rising doing in this social work blog?

It is a matter of human rights. It is naming the trauma. It is community organizing, and advocacy and art. It is a billion voices raised to say, “we will not be defeated.” With its focus on gender-based violence, One Billion Rising is part of the quest for social justice.

The Problem

Gender-based violence, and specifically sexual violence, is directed against a person on the basis of gender, and is often used interchangeably with the term violence against women (VAW), as most perpetrators are male and most victims are female.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states, “Violence against women has profound implications for health but is often ignored…one of the most common forms of violence against women is that performed by a husband or male partner…frequently invisible since it happens behind closed doors, and effectively, when legal systems and cultural norms do not treat as a crime, but rather as a ‘private’ family matter, or a normal part of life. It constitutes a breach of the fundamental right to life, liberty, security, dignity, equality between women and men, non-discrimination and physical and mental integrity.” (WHO, 2014)

In addition to domestic violence or the war against women in their homes, gender-based violence often occurs in the context of war and armed conflicts, with the rape of women used as a weapon against the opposing force and its population.  In the 1990’s, rape during war was designated a violation of human rights. In 2001, the first convictions for war crimes – crimes against humanity based on the use rape as a weapon of war – came out of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, where rape camps were organized by the military to keep thousands of women as sex slaves.

Today, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic are just the latest conflicts where combatants use rape to terrorize entire populations.

Gender-based violence is a harsh reflection of the inequalities between men and women. Sex trafficking, rape in refugee camps, rape during economic migration – while traveling from Mexico to the USA, for example, abuse against workers who lack legal status, dowry murders, female genital cutting, fistulas resulting from tears and injury, and HIV infection through the commission of these crimes create severe trauma for women and girls just by the mere fact of being female.

Why dance?

“Women are putting their bodies at the site where vulnerabilities intersect,” said Kimberle Crenshaw, law professor, co-founder of African American Policy Forum, and a partner in the One Billion Rising campaign (democracy now, 2014). Dancing helps celebrate the body and spirit and builds solidarity in the effort to end violence.

The following self-care guidelines following trauma either include some variation of dance movement or are a great fit for it:

-Exercise regularly. It releases serotonin, endorphins, and brain chemicals that increase a sense of well-being. It can improve self-esteem and helps obtain better sleep. Dance certainly is exercise; it raises positive energy.

-Reduce stress. Employ relaxation techniques and practices such as meditation or yoga, and make time for recreational activities, especially ones that bring you joy. Family and friends can participate – and dance along with you.

-Eat well. Balanced meals will help you keep your blood levels steady so as to avoid mood swings. Complex carbohydrates (whole grains) and foods rich in omega-3 fats help an lift your mood. Dancing requires good fuel!

-Sleep well. Trauma can disrupt sleep. Fear, hypervigilance, and other stressors can interrupt or prevent sleep. Maintain a good sleep regimen: go to bed at the same time each night. A healthy pattern is getting around 8 hours of sleep every night. Dance can exercise muscles and relieve tension that impede good sleep.

Dancing and singing and drumming can create a new relationship with one’s body, and one’s mind and spirit is similarly affected. Dance can release the energy from stress following trauma, allowing for positive and joyful movement and sensation. This in turn encourages a reclamation of the physical self and helps establish new relationship with the body as a  source of strength and sense of survivorship rather than victimization.

In the social rehabilitation model, “survivors heal in relationship to one another, and are positively affected by the relationships that they have with others.  In particular, women who have survived sexual torture and abuse need the safety and security of an all women’s environment where they can feel at ease to heal themselves and their relationship to their communities.  The social rehabilitation model is a very powerful way to create a culture of change and transformation.  By its nature it offers a new way of seeing life…Because survivors live and heal beside one another, strong bonds are created, and each person’s self identity is healed, restored and enhanced through the positive mirroring of her sisters and brothers.” (graciasfoundation, 2014).

Dancing and Social Work

Social workers can become mired in a “martyr culture – working to the point of exhaustion, illness…this full-speed-ahead-activism [is not] benefiting any of us…We sacrifice…our health…for a social justice movement that isn’t enacting the very values…that we are working for through legislation…Community wellness is radical because it counters a culture of silence, a culture of suppression and oppression, and reveals a culture where we can be more fully ourselves…[this is] radical wellness…[and this] is the healing work ahead.” (Peacock, 2013)

In the above context, and with a commitment to self-care…

We will rise up with those who want to take part in obliterating the hate, the disregard, and the disappearance of the humane, of humanity, in these acts of violation.

We will rise up, in all our numbers, with those who love us, who live with us, among us, with those who want to help in the healing. We will rise up with all who want to take part in obliterating the hate,  the brutality, the inhumanity in these deliberate acts of violence.

We will dance on the day that is, in so many cultures, all about love. We reclaim love. We reclaim joy. We move mountains of grief to make space for free movement and free speech and freedom from fear.

Will you rise on February 14th?

 

References

Democracynow (2014, February 3). One Billion Rising: Eve Ensler & Kimberle Crenshaw on global movement to end violence against women. [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfSADXxh2jo

Graciasfoundation (2014). Our Programs: Safe Embrace Trauma Healing (SETH) Program. The Gracias Foundation. Retrieved February 3, 2014, from http://www.graciasfoundation.org/our-programs.html

One Billion Rising http://www.onebillionrising.org/

Osborn, A. (2001, February 22). Mass Rape as a War Crime. The Guardian. Retrieved February 6, 2014, from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/feb/23/warcrimes

Peacock, J. (2103, May 22). Toward community wellness: healing from trauma through yoga. The Feminist Wire.  Retrieved February 7, 2014 from http://thefeministwire.com/2013/05/towards-community-wellness-healing-from-trauma-through-yoga/

World Health Organization (2014) Gender Women and Health: Gender Based Violence. World Health Organization. Retrieved January 30, 2014, from http://www.who.int/gender/violence/gbv/en/index.html

Here is a photo of Buffalo’s 1 Billion Rising event BLOG 1 Billion RisingBuffaloPhoto

29 comments

  • Pat,
    I love this post. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring and beautiful way of bringing awareness to our current distressing and painful situation where women’s safety [and lives] around the world are continuously put at risk.

    It is time for us to all rise and say “no more!”

    It is time for both men and women to join hands and say let’s make this world a better place – one where everyone may be safe, and free from violence and abuse of all kinds.

    I also love the idea of dancing because dancing in of itself is so much fun… will the UBSSW be participating/joining in on a dance on the streets? If so, please do share some photos on twitter.

  • Thanks, Dorlee – I attended and was very pleased to see so many young women there. Despite some snow and cold, we danced, drummed, chanted and rose to the occasion! Here are photos of Buffalo’s 1 Billion Rising event at http://ow.ly/tHS3k

  • Julian Amoakohene

    Pat,
    This was very inspiring to read and I am looking forward to more of your post. Growing up in my community I wasn’t aware of any gender based violence on women. After reading different blogs such as your own and learning about different cases one of the main issues and solutions to ending this violence is breaking the silence.

    I feel that men and women need to step up and fight for this change the same way we pushed and fought for many other things in this world. Mentioning dance as a solution was very interesting.

    What do you say to someone who says that Dancing can be a cause for some sexual violence?

  • Thank you so much for sharing this! As a woman, as a dancer, and as a victim, I wish I had seen this sooner! I would have loved to have participated in such a necessary event. Sexual assault and violence against women is overlooked and normalized in our society and we need more movements like this! Truly inspiring!

  • What a beautiful film ! I was deeply touched to see women all over the world saying no more. Not just saying in but to dance it on a special day like Valentine’s Day for everyone to see and feel the strength a beautiful being express their power. I had to share it on my Facebook page and I cannot wait to share this with the women I love so much; my mother and sisters. We all at one point in our lives were victims of the cruel and painful abuse so to see this film will make us all smile, motivated, encouraged and appreciate that something is being done and when something is wrong, we need to stand up, can also dance and say NO!
    Thank you for sharing this! Very inspiring!

  • Jennifer Van Kuren

    Pat,
    Thank you for posting this. I wish I heard about it sooner! I enjoy the positivity events such as these bring, and I think it captures the essence of empowerment and solidarity among women that is needed to combat such a serious issue. Considering how far reaching this issue is, and how women all over the world are effected by this, I find dancing to be a uniquely appropriate way to raise awareness and I cannot help but appreciate its meaning. For many cultures dancing is spiritual and contributes to healing, which I think makes this event even more significant.

    However, considering how serious this issue is, I hope the underlying meaning of this event is getting out there. I have a hard time with events that raise awareness because I find myself asking, what happens next? I think bringing people together like this is the first step in the right direction towards ending violence against women, and I think it opens the door to a dialogue, but I hope the dialogue leads to a push in actively ending the horrific crimes being committed against women all over the world.

  • Angel Minuto-Regling

    I found this blog post so inspiring and I hope the word continues to get out about this subject. This is so important and effects so many, we as social workers need to participate and stand united. Knowledge is key and movements like this put a spotlight on something very serious. I hope that one billion rising will continue yearly and I hope that it gets the press that it deserves.
    Joining together in this movement will show camaraderie, support and love

    I also liked how you tied in the idea of self-care, as social workers it is something that is discussed but really needs to be implemented, so why not dance! What a great way to take care of ourselves along with joining a great movement and how beneficial it can be for the women victimized. I find this whole idea empowering and I would love to take part in it next year!

  • What I love about this intervention strategy is that while it is a macro intervention it also has very immediate results on a micro and can also have immediate results on a mezzo level. This intervention can be something that an individual can take part in privately in their own home if they are not ready to participate in a group. In such an instance they are still gaining a sense of power and control in taking part, and benefiting from the personal biological and psychological benefits of this event. It also can become a practice they integrate into their own life beyond this one day. In regards to the mezzo level, community members who come together for an event meet each other and may find much needed or appreciated support. This approach also accesses multiple senses and ways in which people might learn about and perceive their world. Whether someone is most influenced to feel empowered and comfortable by what they can actively do, by what they see others doing, or by what they hear around them; this campaign reaches all of them. Similarly the world, society, and the macro level systems that this intervention is trying to impact can see the movement, hear the movement, and eventually be physically moved, altered, changed, and impacted by the movement.
    In general the marketing involved and use of technology by the 1 billion rising movement is impressive. They provide a visual counteract to much of the sexist and oppressive images in mainstream media, and they access people around the world through a diverse array of sources. Celebrities and individuals in power have also gotten involved, improving the strength and reach of the movement. I am particularly fond of the video which circulated this year of the artist Pink and her tour crew, who all joined the movement by recording themselves dancing to a piece choreographed specifically for the One Billion Rising campaign. I believe that few different songs have been written specifically for this campaign, “Break the Chain,” is the one used in this particular video (It can be found on the One Billion Rising website and a soundcloud format): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsFTpBg8tTc
    As a dancer since a very young age, I find the concept inspiring and elegant and strong; which are all words I connect with the art form of dance itself as well as with powerful works of macro advocacy. One Billion Rising is structured but also organic, which seems to allow for a very strong and healthy amount of growth both of the people who become involved and of the campaign itself.

    • I appreciate your analysis of the One Billion Rising campaign as a macro-mezzo-micro multi-level intervention – and your remark on art forms and dance being macro approaches for social work to utilize.

      • Another resource for you, S.Allen: There is a twice-monthly Twitter chat on #MacroSW . The next few are scheduled for March 27, April 10, and April 24, 2014. See the recent post “Macro Social Work Matters – Twitter Chat” for more details.

  • I was very interested in seeing this post, and was frustrated that I had missed the date to participate. I think that the issue of domestic violence and violence towards women is a very important issue that is not often publicized and discussed in different settings. The awareness of this issue through the medium of dance seems to be an effective way to help promote the ending of the silence surrounding this issue. I was happy to see the many different settings and countries that this movement has seemed to touch by watching the video, and am inspired that such a simple idea could move so many into joining together to end the silence.

    Social work began as a social justice profession, to create equality and raise awareness to injustices that were rife within society’s structure and institutions. This community action can help promote awareness and hopefully lead towards better laws and interventions to help decrease relationship/domestic violence for all genders. This movement can help individuals gather support, acknowledgement, understanding, and the freedom to use their voice through the art of dance.

  • I found this blog post to not only be informative, but also very powerful and inspirational. I absolutely loved watching the video that was included. It was amazing to see so many people from so many cultures and parts of the world participating in one event with such vigor! I think that this is extremely important when it comes to issues of violence against women for many reasons. Rape and sexual violence still has a powerful stigma that makes women unwilling to talk about it. Not only is it hard to talk about because perpetrators tend to be partners and significant others, but also because more often than not, society as a whole still seems to blame the victim for the violence occurring. Additionally, the violence happens behind closed doors of the household and thus awareness is not high. Seeing so many women and men coming together and participating in an event across the globe shows survivors that they are not alone. There is a powerful sense of community that is saying sexual violence is not acceptable; we need to spread awareness, come together and support each other. We will not only survive, but also rise above the violence and grow in a positive manner. If I found the visual of seeing these people come together powerful and supportive, I can only imagine what seeing and experiencing the event for a survivor would feel like.

    I really liked the idea of dancing as something to help trauma survivors heal. Sometimes it feels like we are so focused on interventions in a clinical setting that we forget about the smaller enjoyments of life that can contribute to the healing process. All of the listed reasons as to why dancing is beneficial make perfect sense in terms of self-care. I love that it promotes positive energy, fun and is often social in nature. That sense of support and being a part of a community is really important for those who have survived trauma and I feel that dancing and this event are wonderfully creative ways to encourage social support while gaining all the positive effects dancing has on the body.

    Thank you so much for sharing information and such a powerful video on this event. Like many of those mentioned before me, I am disappointed that I was unaware of this and could not participate. I hope to see something similar take place in 2015 as well so promoting awareness can continue and more people can join in!

  • Kayla Cairnduff

    Wow, what an awesome post! I am so upset I am only hearing about this now and missed the date – ill have to keep my out for next year!
    I think this post is exactly what is needed right now. There have been so many protests, debates, events, and other such things around this topic but they have all been very segregated into different cultures or areas. The fact that this event was worldwide was fantastic. Raising awareness is the first and most important step in taking action. People across the nation and across the world need to be aware about the facts surrounding this situation. Nothing can be done if there is no awareness on the topic. If this continues and other events continue to take place and receive the public’s awareness and spread knowledge, who knows what positive changes could come out of it.
    Along with the whole concept and possibilities that may come from this, I also liked how they used dancing as the form of expression and how it was tied in with self-care. Dancing is such a free spirited activity to take part in. It opens up the soul and allows the mind to just be blank and relax. Dancing could be a self-care for anyone, those experiencing trauma, and those experiencing the minor struggles of daily life. Self-care is important regardless of what is going on with your life. I think that is important to keep in mind, especially as social workers. I truly hope this movement continues and that we all begin to see some progress towards reaching equal human rights and justice. In the mean time, keep on dancing!

    • I found this post to be inspiring! What a great way to spread the word of violence against women. With this being such a large problem in society today things like this are important. In undergrad I volunteered each year at the clothes line project. This event enabled women affected by violence to express their emotions about their experiences. They decorated shirts which then hung on a clothesline as a testimony to the problem of violence against women. With events like this it gives survivors the ability to take back what is theirs. They have a voice and can use it to spread the word and at the same time find peace. It is so important to get the community involved in events likes this because through events comes awareness. The statistics listed above are saddening, something needs to be done, someone needs to stand up. This event gives not only those affected by violence but family member and friends the chance to do something. This is a fun way to get a more serious issue noticed. Changing society is not easy but it starts with events like these to make a difference.

      I really liked how you tied in self care to dancing. I think it is such a great way to create a new relationship with your body and to release stress and emotions. You mentioned the social rehabilitation model and how powerful it is. I couldn’t agree more, I think this is a way to promote this model of healing in relationship to one another. This is an outlet for survivors and family members to come together and heal.

      I would love to participate in this in the future and will look for upcoming events!

  • Glad you found it inspiring, Kaylyn. “…fun way to get a serious issue noticed” – exactly what the organizers intended!
    Next year, look at the Facebook page, One Billion Rising / VDAY in Buffalo NY, for 2015 details.

  • I absolutely loved this post! This movement is very inspiring and I would love to be a part of it next year. I’m really passionate about domestic violence and sexual assault, so I think using this movement to raise awareness is amazing. Rhythm and dance can unite all people regardless of race, language and status. Society is very good at shaming and blaming victims, but this movement is amazing because it breaks the silence about the violence and shows the survivors they aren’t alone! What better way to get in touch with your body than to dance?! Watching the video of all the women and girls dancing gave me chills because it sends such a powerful message. I think the thing I love most about this is that there is no right or wrong way to dance, just like there is no right or wrong way to heal. You just have to go with it and it is a lot easier to do that when you have the support of one billion.
    Everyone is unique and and brings their own story to the table. During my undergrad career I organized several take back the night marches and I developed a strong connection to the cause from hearing the stories of survivors. People need to know to violence happens and it happens everywhere. Knowledge is power and the more people who are aware of this movement the better. What better way to attract attention than to dance?! Thank you again for this!

    • Katie,
      You (and I) find it encouraging when you can connect an article or event to your previous knowledge base – I like the point you make that there is no right or wrong way to dance, or to heal. This is an important take-away. Indeed, knowledge is power! Thanks for your comments.

  • Lydia Nestorowycz

    I found this post to be incredibly inspiring and I can’t think of a better way to bring women together in a way that is so empowering and also brings further awareness to the issue of gender violence. As women across the world have been gaining equality there are many out there who no longer perceive gender violence as as big of an issue as it was decades ago. However, this violence it still occurring across the world and it is not even close to being at a point that it is no longer an issue. As long as there is still violence against women there will still need to be awareness and attention given to the situation.
    You were absolutely right when you said that the energy in the video was contagious. The moment it started I was entirely engaged and I noticed that I was smiling the whole time- the music and passion was seen in every clip of it and I loved the idea that so many people, regardless of their culture, were coming together with one purpose in mind.

  • Brenna Vermilyea

    This is such a huge issue in our country and around the world, and I am happy to see this type of movement created in honor of this cause. I also found this post to be very informative, as I am not familiar with all of the aspects of this topic. I had not previously read about rape used as a form of weapons in war; when thinking about this topic in particular, I would have assumed this to be occurring far before the 1990s, let alone after 2000. This reminds me that I should be constantly researching and informing myself on such issues. I really enjoyed the energy throughout the video, the entire movement is very inspiring. My favorite aspect of the video was seeing all of the people from different cultures and backgrounds coming together to support this cause. The video really captured solidarity around the world, and I hope that this movement is heard and recognized. It is a sign of humanity moving in the right direction.

  • Pat, thank you for your well-written and blog on “Dancing Past Trauma: One Billion Rising” event and gender-based violence. The math is simple, overwhelming, and still unacceptable. The inequality between men and women is historical and institutionalized, where women used to, and still are possessions and commodities in some countries, their suffering is stigmatized and quite often is behind closed doors. I am sure as many, I often find myself wondering why in such a progressive in most areas world, overcoming “blame the victim” mentality somehow remains a challenging perception to change?!

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has referred to violence against women as a “global health problem of epidemic proportions.” As noted in the blog, intimate partner violence is the most common type of violence against women. The effect on women’s health is increased rates for depression, alcohol use, sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancy and abortion, low birth-weight babies, and death and injury. Women who have experienced violence face increased vulnerability to their health in the short-term and the long-term.

    I have read some of the comments asking, “How does dancing help? How is this a solution?” It is not a solution, but it certainly is a part of it on the way toward raising awareness around the issue on a global level. For example, legislation on its own does not prevent injustice or oppression, but it can be an effective tool to combat injustice. One Billion Rising is one intervention of many that will be required in order to make changes, and strive toward equality. It provides so many people with the opportunity to use their own resources through self-care while simultaneously collaborate and work together as a community. Even through a choreographed dance, there is so much individual personality and expression that shines through in several of the flash mob videos that were filmed on February 14th, 2013, not to mention videos from different parts of the world. This universal effort breaks language barriers, brings people together, and does not require lengthy explanation.

    The use of dance in social change and human rights is not without precedent. I think of the Chilean women holding photographs of their loved ones who had disappeared at the hands of dictator Augusto Pinochet, dancing the Cueca, their national dance in protest: such an extraordinary image and symbol of human rights violation inflicted upon them. Our social change efforts need symbols like that, songs, collective movements, and voices, all of which contribute into creating equality!

    What also resonated with me was your reference to the “martyr culture” among social workers. In fact, most of us in the profession and field of Social Work would recognize ourselves in that description! As we attempt to take self-care from theory to application, the One Billion Rising project is an effective way to do so while still maintaining our fundamental social work goal of social justice, and enhancing individual and collective well-being.

    The February 14th date for the event seems fitting to me. It is a day when people are thinking about love, and acting on their perceptions of what love means and represents to them. Part of that thinking should include how we treat the ones we love, and how other people treat the ones we love…. mothers, sisters, wives, daughters. For a man, the math says one of these people you love will suffer from gender-based violence. “No more excuses, no more abuses”.

    As Social Workers we must ensure we recognize those at risk and respond effectively, when it comes to addressing intimate partner violence.

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  • Pat,
    I found both this article and video to be quite powerful and inspiring. As a student, I have learned a bit about trauma and the different ways it can be managed through counseling but counseling seems to make the client seem more of a victim. This initiative however, gives an individual a great sense of empowerment. Instead of making an individual feel like a victim of sexual violence, this would make them feel like a survivor. I found great joy in seeing women united and finding triumph in their struggle. Those who have experienced any type of sexual violence feel the need to hide it and tend to feel stigmatized but this united survivors across the globe with positive vibes and energy instead of grief and resentment which was amazing to watch. Because women are a lot more oppressed in other countries, it was great to watch women from all around the world rising up and having a voice and saying “no more” and what better way to do it then through love and dance. I wish I would of heard about this sooner! I would of loved to join to raise awareness to this major issue. If this is still going on in Feb. 2016, I will be there.

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