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Spotlight on domestic violence

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A public dance Thursday in Columbus is intended to raise awareness of violence against women.

One in three women will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime, according to the website for One Billion Rising, a global campaign by women that also seeks greater justice and gender equality for women.

The international Valentine’s Day effort asks 1 billion women — the number of females who could be victims of domestic violence during their lifetime — and people who love them to rise up and demand an end to violence against females. As of last week, the effort had participation in 197 countries and territories.

Locally, the One Billion Rising dance is 5:30 to 6 p.m. at Total Fitness, 3075 Middle Road.

One Billion Rising has been an annual, worldwide call to change held in cities across the globe on Valentine’s Day for the past 15 years. Thursday’s free dance event marks the first of its kind in the Columbus area.

Organized by Columbus residents Pat Conard and Lezlie Ward, this event offers two dances to suit varying tastes. Total Fitness’ Zumba instructor Christal Downing will lead a high-energy dance, and Ward, a yoga instructor, will guide participants through a dance of universal peace that she describes as “meditative.”

People shouldn’t worry about how well they can dance, Ward said. What’s important is taking a stand and not looking the other way, she said.

“That’s what I like about this event, it’s very positive,” Ward said. “It’s not a protest. It’s a way for people to say, ‘I’m voting for an end to this; I’m voting for peacefulness.’”

Conard says the event is an opportunity for people in the community to participate in an act of solidarity against a culture of violence.

“It should be a coming together in celebration of women,” Conard said. “There needs to be the empowerment of women to say, not only, ‘This is not acceptable,’ but also to provide support to women who are living in ungodly conditions.”

Conard believes reaching out to young people is essential.

Many young women are raised with one expectation of them, and that is they’ll get into a relationship and have children, Conard said. As a result, many stay in situations where they “put up with things you wouldn’t believe” to avoid jeopardizing their standing in the relationship, Conard said.

They key is to get men involved in the conversation, Conard said.

“They are the ones who are vital to changing the culture of violence,” Conard said. “Men need to say, ‘This is not acceptable.’”

Conard hopes those who attend the event will continue to help make a difference afterwards by getting involved with Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, or helping a friend in a difficult situation.

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