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Frank Gray

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Victims of abuse get chance to dance

For some time now, people have been promoting an event called One Billion Rising, a project that aims to assemble a billion people around the world on Valentine’s Day and have them dance.

I’m accustomed to hearing about marches and fundraisers and such, but the notion of getting a billion people dancing at the same time left me stumped.

Well, I was told, the project’s purpose is to raise awareness of domestic violence, rape, bullying and that.

I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t quite understand how getting a billion people worldwide to dance at noon on Valentine’s Day would accomplish that.

So I talked to Lori Keys, a Fort Wayne woman and dance instructor who is heading up the effort to get Fort Wayne involved. She’s trying to gather as many people as possible at Parkview Field at noon Thursday – and dance.

Keys said that her plan to participate in the international event – a reported 14,000 locations around the world – started small.

“If nothing else, me and two of my friends would dance and send in a picture of us dancing” for the rest of the world to see.

But her efforts caught the attention of some nonprofits concerned with all the different sorts of violence, and then some companies caught wind of it and offered to help out. Now Keys is hoping that perhaps 600 people will show up at noon Thursday and take part.

Still, I asked Keys, how is this going to make a difference?

Well, she said, 1 billion is the number of women in the world who will be the victims of various sorts of violence in their lifetimes.

But dancing?

Keys teaches dance, all sorts of dance. She went to a corporate event not long ago where her job was to get an entire room of employees to dance.

Dance is good for you, she said. It helps people learn to feel comfortable in their own skin, and it gives people a feeling of worth, she said.

In preparation for One Billion Rising, she’s been teaching classes at the downtown Y, teaching a dance that people can do if they want to participate.

“I didn’t expect this,” Keys said, “but people are coming forward afterward” and telling her how they had lived in abusive relationships for years, even decades. “This attracts victims who have been in hiding. It helps in the healing process.”

It was beginning to make sense. If you can get a billion people around the world, many who have been victims of violence or abuse, “It gives them strength to know that they are not alone, that they shouldn’t be ashamed of it.

“It goes beyond turning victims into survivors,” Keys said.

So if you are in an abusive relationship or have been the victim of violence, showing up in a stadium full of people – many of whom have had the same experiences – would be therapeutic. It would show people they aren’t alone, and they don’t have to accept it.

If the numbers being tossed about in connection with this event – that a billion women and girls, or about one in three, will be the victim of violence worldwide – and a proportionate number showed up at the local event, then one could expect tens of thousands of women to show up at Parkview Field.

Now that would make a statement.

Still, Keys is expecting only a few hundred, and you don’t have to be a good dancer.

Keys said there will be a voluntary admission fee of $3, but you don’t really have to pay it. Money collected will go to organizations that deal with violence.

There will be music – you must have music to dance – and lunch trucks will be there selling lunches. This is taking place at the lunch hour, after all.

The grass in the stadium, though, which just got replaced about four months ago, will be off limits.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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