Flash mobs cropped up across the city and the University of Wisconsin campus on Valentine’s Day in an effort to raise awareness about violence against women, both at home and across the globe.

The spontaneous dances were part of a campaign called One Billion Rising, which aims to bring people together to speak out against violence against women, according to Tony Gibart, policy coordinator for the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Flash mobs took place at Hilldale Mall, Edgewood College and Memorial Union, he said.

Gibart said the flash mobs in Madison were part of a global movement to raise awareness. Similar events occurred on the same day in many other countries with the same purpose in mind, he said.

“[A flash mob] demonstrates physically and vocally peaceful resistance against gender violence around the world,” Gibart said.

One in three women are assaulted or raped in their lifetime, so of the nearly three billion women in the world, there are about one billion women who are victims of gender violence, Gibart said. He added the purpose of the event was also to mobilize positive energy and creativity on a large scale to reflect the extensiveness of the problem.

Gibart noted the positive momentum in the Madison community that came as a result of the flash mobs. 

Many people who saw the events responded to the energy of the participants, he said, adding the flash mobs started conversations about issues surrounding violence against women, both in the City of Madison and around the world.

Kelly Kwiatkowski, an instructor in the UW Dance Department, said the campaign used dance as a means for expressing protection for themselves, their loved ones and their own bodies. The flash mob was an active way to call for an end to violence against women, she said.

“I think it is a way to collectively come together as a community, to organize together and celebrate strength, community and support,” she said.

Gibart also emphasized the inclusiveness of the event and said anyone could organize friends, neighbors and community members for a similar event to raise awareness. The organizers of the Hilldale Mall flash mob were instructors from the Hancock Center for Dance, he said.

Kwiatkowski added in addition to the flash mobs, the Dance Department also held several other dance related events to help spread One Billion Rising’s core messages.

A UW student in the department organized a dance party after the department’s Thursday concert to get more people involved in the movement and as an effort to get others to rise up and dance in support of the One Billion Rising movement, Kwiatkowski said.

The One Billion Rising is a relatively new organization, Gibart said. The flash mobs and other dancing events are held each year on Valentine’s Day in an effort to reframe the holiday into a day of awareness and dialogue about gender violence, he said.

“Violence against women needs to be eradicated,” Kwiatkowski said. “Any effort we can make to stand up and speak out against that is worthwhile.”