PLEASANT HILL -- Students at Diablo Valley College joined women across the globe Thursday as they stood tall and danced during "One Billion Rising," a one-day event calling for an end to violence against women and girls.
"One Billion Rising," which takes its name from the estimate that one in three women will be beaten or sexually assaulted in her lifetime, commemorates the 15th anniversary of playwright Eve Ensler's "V-Day" campaign. Through annual benefit performances of Ensler's play "The Vagina Monologues" and other artistic events, "V-Day" shines a spotlight on the international movement to stop rape, battery, female genital mutilation and other violence against girls and women.
Diablo Valley dance instructor Kimberly Valmore recruited her students to stage a flash mob on campus, performing the dance routine legendary choreographer Debbie Allen created for "One Billion Rising." The group practiced for several weeks.
"I think at the end of all this, and that's what I love about this dance, it's about celebrating women, to be able to say that a bunch of women can stand up for this and really say 'enough is enough'," Valmore said.
Dressed in vibrant hot pink and red tops, about two dozen young women gathered in front of the Diablo Valley cafeteria shortly after noon. They shimmied to the tune "Break the Chain," the official event song.
Cimone Bassilios, a 20-year-old creative writing and dance student, said she performed because she believes in the anti-violence movement and has friends who have been in abusive relationships.
"The reason the dance is happy is we're trying to show there is another way, and we're all in this together," Bassilios said.
Although men didn't perform, a handful stood in solidarity with the dancers and held signs with anti-violence slogans.
"There's that certain group that feels they have to be aggressive against people; that isn't right," said Lawrence Maloy, 20. "I don't know how you can make them change. But if enough people do this, it can be a movement."
Rape crisis centers across the state participated in "One Billion Rising," said Sandra Henriquez, executive director of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, an advocacy group.
"I think it's a way to involve and engage members of the community in this effort and have them become a part of the solution and have everybody take a stance and understand how sexual violence affects all of us, whether we're directly impacted or it's our mothers, sisters, grandmothers or daughters," Henriquez said.
Domestic violence is a huge problem in Contra Costa County, said Rachel Piersig, supervisor of the felony domestic violence unit in the District Attorney's office. She said that last year, the office filed 92 felony domestic violence cases and 252 misdemeanor cases. Prosecutors convicted 127 defendants of felony domestic violence, which includes domestic battery, restraining order violations, stalking and domestic violence sexual assault.
Piersig said the statistics mask the widespread effect domestic violence has on abusers, victims, children and other relatives. She also pointed out that more cases of domestic abuse are spilling over into the workplace, such as the 2011 shooting in a Seal Beach salon, when a man was charged with killing his ex-wife and seven others.
"The tentacles are just far-reaching," Piersig said.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.
Domestic violence and rape cases in Contra Costa County:
Source: Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office