HARTFORD, CT, February 15, 2013 – It was double-duty for many Trinity faculty, staff and students Thursday as they participated in a variety of activities designed to draw attention to the global problem of sexual violence against women, and they also rallied at the state Capitol for stronger gun control measures.
The main event was a flash mob dance, led by the Judy Dworin Performance Project, which was performed in the atrium of the Legislative Office Building (LOB). Dworin, who adapted the dance, Break The Chain, from one posted on the One Billion Rising (OBR) Web site, is a professor of theater and dance at Trinity. The dance, in which girls and women from public and private schools participated, as well as women from various organizations that combat sexual abuse, livened up the normally staid LOB. Although it was a serious topic the participants were addressing, legislators, staff and lobbyists hung from the railings, clapping and swaying to the music.
Dworin, who works with female inmates at the York Correctional Institution in Niantic, CT, said she was motivated to get involved because she sees women “older and younger, girls on the cusp of womanhood, women who are incarcerated and girls and women who are free to roam where they please, so many of whom have endured such unspeakable violation and abuse to their bodies…We, in speaking out with our bodies through dance today are saying yes to honoring the body and its release from such abuse.”
Along with Dworin, who was joined by seven members from her dance troupe, several dozen Trinity students and staff were shuttled to the Capitol under the tutelage of Laura Lockwood, director of the Women and Gender Resource Action Center. The capstone to the day’s events was a performance of The Vagina Monologues, written by Eve Ensler.
OBR was intentionally planned for Valentine’s Day and is a global initiative that invited “one billion women and those who love them” to walk out, dance, rise up, and demand an end to violence against women and girls. OBR was conceived by Ensler in honor of the 15th anniversary of V-Day, a global nonprofit movement that has raised more than $75 million for women’s anti-violence groups through benefit performances of The Vagina Monologues.
According to Laura Cordes, executive director of the Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, 1 billion represents the number of girls and women that will be raped or beaten in their lifetimes.
By coincidence, Trinity was one of the first venues where The Vagina Monologues was performed, according to Sarah Raskin, a friend of Ensler’s and a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Trinity. At the time, the one-woman play, with its acerbic wit, was performed in the dance studio that was once above the Long Walk. It drew about 50 people. The play was performed the following year in Austin Arts Center and shortly thereafter had a five-year run on Broadway.
Raskin, who attended the flash mob dance, had a full day. She was also a leader of the gun control rally, which attracted several thousand people from across Connecticut to the Capitol. Raskin, who was accompanied by Trinity students, said she decided to become involved in the March for Change in the aftermath of the massacre in a Newtown, CT school, where 20 children and six women were shot to death. The organizers of the March for Change chose Valentine’s Day for their rally because it is the universal day for expressing love. Estimates of the crowd size ranged from 4,000 to 5,000. In light of Newtown, Raskin said she just couldn’t “sit and do nothing.”
The gun control rally, which kicked off the day’s activities, came as state legislators are considering strengthening Connecticut’s gun laws, including stricter background checks for the sale and transfer of guns, a ban on ammunition magazines holding more than 10 bullets and expanding the existing ban on military-style semiautomatic rifles.
But it was One Billion Rising that drew the most attention from the Trinity community. Mary Taliaferro ’13, co-president of Students Against Sexual Assault, said OBR was important “because violence against women, whether psychological or physical, is an issue on campus, in the country and internationally.”
Not all of the Trinity participants were female. “There’s a lot of wrongdoing going on and it’s our job to stand up against it and to stand up to the violence against women,” said Bryan Garrett-Farb ’14.
After the flash mob dance, a number of speakers addressed the vast gathering in the LOB, including Gov. Dannel Malloy, his wife Cathy, Cordes and Dworin, among others.
“Here in Hartford, we stand as survivors, as victim advocates, community members, lawmakers and elected officials, with men and women around the globe and in over 200 countries, in an unprecedented union – a rising – to demand an end to the epidemic, unjust and devastating levels of violence against women and girls,” said Cordes, who noted in her remarks that nearly one-quarter of the women in college “will experience a completed or successful rape, most often at the hands of someone they know or trust.”
Several of the speakers urged the U.S. House of Representatives to approve the national Violence Against Women Act, which was adopted recently by the U.S. Senate.
Cathy Malloy, who worked as executive director of the Sexual Assault Crisis and Education Center of Stamford from 2000 to 2011, tied the two themes of the day together. “As we rise up, we want everybody to wake up,” she said. “As the president said, people affected by gun violence deserve a vote [by Congress]. Well, people who are victims of sexual violence deserve a vote as well.”
For more information about V-Day and One Billion Rising, please visit: www.vday.org