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Flash Mobs Raise Awareness About Sexual Assault

Shenandoah University helped raise awareness about violence against women in a very unusual way.

WINCHESTER, Va. -  One Billion Rising is a global initiative with 200 participating counties. The movement focuses on raising awareness about violence against women.

"One in every three women is going to be beaten, or has been beaten, raped or abused in their lifetime,” said student organizer Aysha Malik. “That's over one-billion women in the world, hence why it's called One Billion Rising."

This is the second year Shenandoah students have participated in the event, and they did so on their own terms.

"That makes me so happy, when I’m not the one who is initiating anymore, I’m the one who is supporting and encouraging,” said Amy Sarch, Director of Women’s Studies at Shenandoah. “Our students are awesome.”

"One of the things that are most empowering to me is to watch students, faculty, staff, trustees, come together to speak out against violence against women. There's power in community, there's power in the unified voice,” said University President, Tracy Fitzsimmons, who also participated in the flash mob event.

Despite the smiling faces, participants were focused on the serious topic at hand.

"The flash mob was kind of a way for us to target the Shenandoah audience. We're college students. We can host seminars, we can do presentations, but a flash mob is what's going to get people to really talk about it,” said Malik.

"This is something they're looking forward to. its fun, but it's also really serious, at its heart," said Fitzsimmons.

They say on college campuses, one in four women will be sexually assaulted during their time there. And in Virginia over 10 percent of the adult female population has reported experiencing unwanted sex by a current or former intimate partner.

"I couldn't believe how pervasive it is. And it really was something that people were keeping silent,” said Sarch. “It made me so upset that they were ashamed, when they had nothing to be ashamed about. They didn't do anything wrong."

"In life - you can't anticipate what happens, but you can anticipate what you're going to do with it,” said Malik.

The flash dance that the students performed was choreographed by the famous Debbie Allen, and is replicated around the world at each flash mob event for One Billion Rising.

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