Dancing Past Trauma: One Billion Rising
Dancing through Trauma: 1 Billion Rising
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.
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.
“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?
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