New Paltz Community Rises For Women’s Rights

Photo By Robin Weinstein

It all started when Mary Goggin heard Eve Ensler speak at the Omega Institute, an educational retreat center in Rhinebeck, N.Y. There, Ensler unveiled her plans for “V-Day” in 2013 – a plan that included women and their supporters protesting violence through choreographed dance.

This “solidarity among women,” Goggin said, moved her to host One Billion Rising in New Paltz.

A dance movement performed on Feb. 14 in 203 countries, One Billion Rising allows women and men to show their support for female victims of violence worldwide by dancing to a song written for the event called “Break the Chain.”

Goggin worked with community organizer Johanna Longbotham, to put together the flash mob in New Paltz. Neither had organized anything like this before.

Longbotham, who discussed the issue with her two sons, said the movement is important because it aids in starting a conversation about the issues of violence against women in our culture and the media.

“There is a sense of entitlement,” Longbotham said. “So much media pressures girls to be available to male desire. It’s important to start talking about it.”

At a practice of the “Break the Chain” choreography, participants followed Zumba-style motions and simple steps to perform.
Goggin said she disapproves of the questions normally asked following a rape victim’s attack.

“It should not be, ‘What was she wearing?,’” Goggin said. “They should be asking, ‘What made this man think that he could rape this girl?’ Whether we’ve been violated or know someone, there is solidarity among women.”

The solidarity was present at a practice one week before the event, as the cause united those in attendance, organizers said.

“I joined for the fun and to show unity for preventing violence against women,” Theresa Monroe, secretary of residence life, said. “We talk about diversity, but us doing this on Valentine’s Day will bring together fun and one good cause.”

A huge turnout packed the Student Union atrium, with the crowd overflowing onto the balcony. SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian attended with a pink tie and pink heart pinned to his shirt for the festivities.

Two dance instructors stood above the crowd as “Break the Chain” blasted at 3 p.m. in the atrium.

“Going on the website is really inspiring,” second-year marketing major Christina Waterman said. “It could happen to any of us. We’ve got to spread awareness.”

Spreading awareness in New Paltz meant two rallies: the one hosted on campus and another in town held at 3:30 p.m.

On Main Street, the rally before the “Break the Chain” flash mob featured tuba players, people holding signs and Goggin herself telling the crowd to stand up to violence.

Goggin said that when everybody participates in perpetuating rape culture, nobody tries to stop it.

“It comes down to education,” she said. “This has opened up my mind.”
First-year biology major Nadia Ouedraogo said she decided to partake in the event because she personally knows the reality of violence against women.

“I decided to participate because I’m originally from Africa,” Ouedraogo said. “I know people who have been abused – physically, sexually, mentally. It’s real. Even if you help one person, it helps.”

Goggin stressed the importance of individual impact and getting people involved with One Billion Rising.

“We have the power to influence politicians,” Goggin said. “We need to start rising up.”