Story by Sarah Fulton
Photo by Ashley Thompson
The event was repeated around the world on Thursday by members of the One Billion Rising movement in order to bring awareness to violence against women. The event at Valley West was led by Jen Kees, co-owner of Kee’s Camp Pole Fitness Center, in collaboration with Alysa Mozak, Drake’s coordinator for sexual violence response and healthy relationships promotion and the Student Activists for Gender Equality.
Mozak, who initially did not plan to dance, said she felt so empowered that she had to join in.
“I kind of felt in a whirlwind in the moment, so I was not really paying attention to how many people,” Mozak said. “Afterwards I noticed that there were almost 200 people and they were all yelling. It was really energetic.”
One of those participants was senior Jessica Staskal, who joined to bring awareness to the fact one billion women will be raped or beaten in their lifetime.
“Violence against women, sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking and all that stuff is very uncomfortable for people to talk about and it is so prevalent,” Staskal said. “It is absolute(ly) prevalent in society so unless we put on The Vagina Monogloues and do a flash mob, unless we bring attention to it, people are not going to know about it.”
Famous choreographer Debbie Allen choreographed the dance and the background music was sung by women affected by violence. Yet, Mozak said it was not about the dance or the dancers but the affect they could have.
“(It’s great) any time you have a creative mode that express a taboo,” Mozak. “I think it is a fun way for people to understand the seriousness of what occurs. I think it will shed light in all communities.”
Overall, Kees felt that the event went well but felt like the message could have been clearer.
“I feel like our message about being strong and confident women was present,” Kees said. “Although I feel like next year we will have some large print signs made to have people hold around the edges to make sure spectators are aware of the true meaning.”
Kees wanted the event to send a more specific message.
“(Women) are not asking to be hurt,” Kees said. “We are not asking to be judged. We are just trying to be ourselves. Let us just be who we are. Let us just do that via this dance and show the world.”
Besides generating awareness, bringing students into contact with the surrounding communities was one of Mozak’s goals.
“I think it bridges that gap between the communities Drake and Des Moines,” Mozak said. “It gets (students) involved in the larger Des Moines community. It is an opportunity for students to get to know how they can give back.”
Kees said that giving back inspired the dancers.
“The energy in their dance, knowing that this is not just going to be done as a flash mob for no reason it is being done for someone,” Kees said. “They want to be a part of something very profound. They want to stand up for someone they know maybe very closely.”