By Sarah Vistocco ’13
This Valentine’s Day, members of the Siena College community chose to send a global message instead of flowers or greeting cards. Students, faculty, staff and administrators gathered on the academic quad in front of the Sarazen Student Union to participate in ONE BILLION RISING. The event was part of a worldwide initiative supporting the movement to end violence against women and girls.
News Channel 13 Anchor Elaine Houston kicked off Siena College’s ONE BILLION RISING event by saying, “If you’re not treating women with respect, then you are doing something wrong … We are here today to say, ‘enough.’”
ONE BILLION RISING is a call to action based on the statistic that one in three women will be raped or assaulted in her lifetime. As an act of solidarity, communities around the world came together to express outrage, demand change and rise in defiance of the injustices and violence against women.
“It is imperative that we, as a community, as a Franciscan community, as a community that cares about the dignity and unique worth of each human being, stand up against violence against women and say it must end,” said Director of the Sr. Thea Bowman Center for Women Shannon O’Neill, Ph.D. “It is not just a women’s issue, it is a human issue and we all have a role to play in ending this global epidemic and elements of culture that allow it to continue.”
Sexual assault victim Rachel Bryk ’15 spoke at the event as a woman personally affected by the issue. “I am a survivor and that’s what makes me different,” she said. Bryk described her desire to attend and speak at the event as a way to stand up for the victims who cannot.
Activists, writers, thinkers, celebrities, women and men from Loudonville, New York to New Delhi, India participated in ONE BILLION RISING. Along with speeches, Siena’s event featured performances from the Dance, Bhangra and Step teams and a community “flash mob” to the event’s theme song, “Break the Chain.” Videos from several events can be found on the ONE BILLION RISING website.
Stefanie Sueda ’13 danced with the Bhangra Team and strongly believed in the anti-violence movement the event represented. “It starts with the individual, with one person, and that’s why I chose to get involved,” Sueda said. “If one billion people across the globe rose up today, the way women are treated would change dramatically.”
For those who have been personally affected by sexual violence and for those who have been spared its trauma but who, nevertheless, feel strongly about the issue, “the event gives woman and men a common venue to get together and celebrate healthy relationships,” said ONE BILLION RISING attendee Kalli Bonin ’13.