Rape. Sex trafficking. Domestic violence.

They hardly seem like issues we should dance about.

If we just sit there, shake our heads or lash out in vitriolic speech, will it accomplish anything?

But if you dance, your neighbors dance, your friends dance and complete strangers join you, that attracts attention, curiosity and an indisputable positive energy.

An energy for change. A demand to stop the violence.

Such is the thinking of One Billion Rising -- an international movement where for one day women, men and children stand together in solidarity to end abuse against women.

From Europe to Asia, Africa to the Caribbean and all across North America, 197 countries -- at last count -- plan to participate. Big names, from movie stars Anne Hathaway, Robert Redford and Jane Fonda to the Dalai Lama and PSY (of Gangnam Style fame) to regular folks in Lincoln, all have agreed to rise up Feb. 14.

It is long overdue. The time is now, says Eve Ensler, activist and spark for One Billion Rising.

As far back as history goes, women have been treated as lesser humans, the weaker sex and sex objects.

But in recent months there has been a “sexual violence typhoon,” Ensler wrote in a Jan. 11 article for “The Guardian,” in the United Kingdom.

“It’s been happening forever but, like climate change, it’s suddenly impossible to ignore,” Ensler wrote. “A group of boys allegedly raping a girl in Steubenville, Ohio; a 14-year-old girl shot in the head for insisting girls have the right to learn in Pakistan; the gang rape and murder of a girl on a bus in Delhi (India); and in Britain the revelations that (actor) Jimmy Savile was able to abuse hundreds of girls over six decades, while British institutions from the BBC to Broadmoor turned a blind eye.”

Then just this past week, the sexual mutilation of a woman in Egypt; and the gang rape of six tourists in Acapulco in their rented beach house, while their male friends, who were tied up with cables from their cellphones, watched helplessly.

These are just the stories that made headlines.

Far too often, the victim is blamed, Ensler said, for drinking, for wearing provocative clothes, for making poor choices or for not keeping the house clean enough.

Now is the time to rise up, she said.

Fifteen years ago Ensler launched “V-Day” with her award-winning production, “Vagina Monologues,” a series of monologues on the feminine experience addressing rape, sex, love, female genital mutilation and other issues relating to female empowerment and individuality.

Fueled by global outcry against the attacks in Delhi, in Ohio and elsewhere, Ensler was inspired to create “One Billion Rising” -- the notion of one billion people (women and men alike) standing up and saying: no more rape, abuse and mistreatment of women.

Christy Hargesheimer, local coordinator of One Billion Rising in Lincoln, recalls hearing of Ensler’s dream last March while preparing for her own radio interview on International Women’s Day (March 8).

That’s when she heard the statistic: One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That’s one billion women.

And Hargesheimer thought of her experience while serving as an interpreter for a woman who had been raped in prison.

“During a meeting with her attorneys and caseworkers, I asked how many at the table had been violated sexually,” Hargesheimer said. “Four of the six women present raised their hand, an astonishing two out of three.

“With this in mind, I announced on the radio that we would rise up in Lincoln on Valentine’s Day (2013).”

This past fall, she gathered a group of women to plan the V-Day event. Over the months since, the group has grown to include a few men. And the movement has blossomed like wildflower seeds scattered by the wind and taking root wherever they land.

Events are planned across Lincoln: the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Union College campuses, at Lincoln’s high schools, at a dance studio and at the new cafe and bakery, Gratitude, 1551 N. Cotner Blvd.

People are encouraged to wear red and black -- the V-Day colors.

There will be a few speakers addressing the issues women face around the world and across Nebraska and the other 49 U.S. states, Hargesheimer said.

But at the heart of each event will be dancing.


“Dancing insists we take up space, and though it has no set direction, we go there together,” Ensler said in a news release. “Dance is dangerous, joyous, sexual, holy, disruptive, and contagious and it breaks the rules. It can happen anywhere, at anytime with anyone, and everyone, and it’s free. Dance joins us and pushes us to go further, and that is why it is at the center of One Billion Rising.”

Dancing gives you permission to use your body the way you want to use your body, said Melissa Lewis-Nuss, the YWCA executive assistant helping to plan Lincoln events.

It’s not easy to stand up and dance, confessed Judy Hart, of the Angels Theatre Company, another event organizer.

“But we should dance because it exhilarates us,” she said. “If you stand and dance … you recognize that you are surrounded by marvelous power and realize that you are not alone.

“I am dancing, so I am not alone,” Hart said.

“Dancing makes you smile. It is invigorating,” Hart said. And it sends a clear, positive message “instead of chest pounding.”

Across the globe people will dance “Break the Chain,” a song and a dance created for the event by Tena Clark and Debbie Allen (“America Can Dance,” “Fame”). Video tutorials on the steps are available online at onebillionrising.org and on the Lincoln rising Facebook pages.

Hargesheimer envisions people across Lincoln spontaneously dancing “Break the Chain” -- at rallies, in flashmobs, in hallways at schools and office buildings, and in the streets.

And for those who won’t dance or can't attend a One Billion Rising event, Hargesheimer urges them to take a quiet stand: on V-Day stand up, raise your arm in the air, and say, “I am one in one billion.”

But she hopes people will find the courage to dance.

Because dancing will inspire others to join in, said Leslie Kravitz, a senior at UNL heading up the campus One Billion Rising event.

Dancing will erase the barriers between ages, races, genders and economic classes, Lewis-Nuss said.

“It is very important and profound to see so many different ages loving each other and being whatever they want to be,” she said.

And, ultimately, dancing will get us talking to one another, Hart said.

This one day can be the start of something very big, Hargesheimer said.

“It can’t be just a one day event,” she said. “We have to think of it as a new beginning. We have to figure out how to keep this movement going.”

Reach Erin Andersen at 402-473-7217 or eandersen@journalstar.com.


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