LEIDEN, Netherlands — Organizer for Webster University Leiden’s flash mob Amanda Mauro works with victims of sexual assault and human trafficking. She said witnessing their courage gives her the incentive to be an activist.
“To actually hear the strength that’s still in their voices, I think that is enough motivation for me to continue to fight, to bring awareness to the cause, if that’s what’s necessary to help with peace of mind for the survivors themselves,” Mauro said.
On Feb. 14, Webster University Leiden partnered with local nonprofit Bridge to Hope, an organization dedicated to helping victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in the annual One Billion Rising flash mob event. Started in 2012, One Billion Rising is a global movement seeking to end violence against women.
Participants danced to “Break the Chain” produced by Tena Clark in the Beestenmarkt, a square in Leiden. Webster Leiden has participated in the event since 2013.
Mauro has participated in the One Billion Rising event for two years, first as a student and now through Bridge to Hope. She said it is important to involve Webster students in One Billion Rising to start a larger conversation on women’s violence issues.
“I think the student body at the Webster Leiden campus is so international that even if they don’t participate fully, they are bringing back this story to their home as well,” Mauro said. “So it’s already spreading the word without them even knowing they’re spreading the word.”
Elisa Scaliotti, another organizer for the event, said she participated in the event to bring awareness to sexual violence issues. She said some volunteers handed out fliers and others held posters meant to start a conversation.
“We’re going to try to explain to people what it is that we’re doing,” Scaliotti said. “We’re not just randomly dancing. We’re doing it for something that is very, very meaningful.”
Scaliotti said this was her first year participating in the event. She said she hoped students in the flash mob came together and had fun while bringing attention to the issue.
Zoë Griffin, a freshman at Webster University Leiden, said she participated in the flash mob after helping raise money for One Billion Rising and Bridge to Hope. Griffin said she had no prior dance experience and attended practices for the flash mob once a week leading up to the event.
Griffin said during the flash mob locals walked up to her curious about the event. She said she started conversations with them about violence against women.
“I had quite a few people ask me what this was for, and I speak Dutch, so I could translate it to them and let them know,” Griffin said. “They were like, ‘This is so cool. What is One Billion Rising? What is Bridge to Hope?’”
Director of Webster University Leiden and Professor Dr. Jean Paul van Marissing attended the flash mob. He said it was important to bring awareness to violence against women because the issue impacts so many.
Paul van Marissing said he hopes the flash mob provided those who participated with confidence.
“It’s about empowering women,” Paul van Marissing said. “You know, to feel strong, to feel good about themselves and actually to just be themselves.”
Griffin said she feels issues brought up through One Billion Rising are not spoken about enough. She said it was amazing to see both women and men coming together to bring awareness to the issue.
Griffin said participants should take the time and educate themselves in order to further solve issues of violence against women.
“A lot of people, even who are taking part in the flash mob, didn’t know what they were doing it for in the beginning,” Griffin said. “So just educating yourself and maybe looking to volunteer with the organization itself [would be beneficial].”
Scaliotti said she hopes the event sparks One Billion Rising movements through Europe and Webster’s international campuses.
“Some of my friends, they really care about this so they may just start doing it,” Scaliotti said. “That’s what I’m hoping that we will be able to do, because we’re an international campus, that we will start spreading out and branching out all the knowledge that we have about this.”