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Listen. Dance. Rise!
That’s the beautiful theme for this year’s One Billion Rising campaign, part of a global movement to end violence against women and girls.
Super Scary Fact: 1 in 3 women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. Globally, that equals ONE BILLION women.
That’s one billion too many of our sisters, mothers, daughters, mentors, and friends.
Super Awesome Fact: It doesn’t have to be this way, and you can help change things.
Let me tell you a story about vaginas. Yes, vaginas. Back in 1994, there was a totally bomb-ass playwright named Eve Ensler who published a little show called The Vagina Monologues. In it, she shared the stories of over 100 women’s feelings toward their vaginas. Some were happy stories of women discovering themselves, meeting someone who appreciated their body, and affirming their self-love through that admiration. Some were sad stories about the bad experiences that caused them to close up shop forever and forget their bodies could be sources of pleasure. And some were downright brutal stories of rape and mutilation, both here and abroad.
After Ensler performed The Vagina Monologues, women from all over were coming up and reaching out to her, and it seemed they had a lot more to say.
The collection of these stories and experiences make up VDay: a non-profit, global movement to end violence against women and girls. VDay officially falls on February 14th, or Valentine’s Day, but from February through April, campaigns rise to include artistic events, from performances of The Vagina Monologues, to lobbying around government buildings to demand change in rape legislation and to denounce genocide in developing worlds. Additionally, many educational resource fairs provide outreach tools to interested individuals and organizations.
In 2012, VDay examined the still startling numbers on gender-based violence in the United States and around the world, finding that this violence impacts over one billion women and girls worldwide. Founders and activists rallied to begin the One Billion Rising campaign as a revolt against the violence, using strikes and dance to get people’s attention turned toward this serious issue.
For many women who’ve survived sexual assault, the aftermath can be just as devastating as the trauma itself. Dance has become an integral part of One Billion Rising, because it allows women to reclaim their bodies for themselves. Even though dialogue in the US is improving, rape and sexual abuse are still largely stigmatized, and we’ve seen – even recently with examples in the NFL – how violence against women is treated as a nuisance rather than a human rights issue.
So what should we do? How do we support the revolution to end violence against women and girls?
1. Get Educated
It’s hard to create change when we don’t understand the issue. And the issues are vast and interconnected: human trafficking, female genital mutilation, victims confronting their perpetrators and escaping abusive relationships, just to name a few.
There are over 200 countries participating in VDay events. Remember: ONE BILLION women need your help, so find the closest VDay event to you and join the revolution. Don’t see one in your area? Why not start your own?
2. Make a Donation
VDay is a non-profit organization based in California, and 89 cents of every dollar donated goes toward ending violence against women and girls around the world. You can also choose to donate to a specific VDay campaign through their website.
Or you can give to your local women’s shelter, family planning clinic, YWCA, or drug rehabilitation center. Many of these agencies are the first to notice signs of domestic abuse, human trafficking, and assault, and all of them help women in crisis.
Money from local donations goes a long way, but so does the generosity of your time when you volunteer. Crisis hotlines are always in need of individuals willing to be trained and respond to emergency calls. Community outreach and education are other ways to get involved. Some agencies cover more than one county in their state, but do so with little extra funding or staff. When volunteers get involved, the agency can participate in more events and opportunities to engage the public and share service information. Every bit helps.
4. Be a Social (Justice) Butterfly
Post photos of your local VDay movement or share a social justice selfie with a sign that reads “Today I rise…” with your personal story or message. Everyone loves a good coffee shop photo or kitten video, but infuse your Instagram page and Twitter feed with messages of support and calls for action, too. Follow @VDay to stay informed, and share your social media using the hashtag #OneBillionRising. Spread the message of respect and social justice for all until the violence stops.
5. Tell a Friend
This one is two-fold. If you’ve been a victim of gender-based violence and have not shared your story, I encourage you to speak up. Today, tomorrow, a year from now –as soon as you are able. Tell a trusted friend, advocate, health care professional, or authority figure. You are not alone.
Lastly, talk to your friends about gender-based violence. It comes in so many forms and can be overwhelming to tackle alone. What do you want to learn more about? Where do you want to make your personal impact? Do you want to see an end to human sex trafficking? Do you want to change the legislation around rape crimes or improve restraining orders? There’s so much work to be done, and it’s always more uplifting when you have a friend beside you.
Remember: this includes men! Some pretty spectacular campaigns like HeForShe and 1 is 2 Many are sprouting up, and I commend the male voices speaking out. Get your father, your brothers, your friends, and your lovers involved.
So start a flash mob, write a letter to your local officials, send some inspiring tweets, and share some from women across the globe. Be there for your fellow sisters at upcoming VDay events, and all the days after until the violence stops.
Do you or someone you love need help with this intense issue? While The Indie Chicks offer awesome advice, we aren’t licensed therapists or trained crisis counselors. We care about you, so please take care of yourself by using the following hotline number to get the help you need:
*Originally published on The Indie Chicks, February 27th, 2015.
I’m participating in One Billion Rising this year!