"One Billion Rising": Demanding an End to Violence Against Women
By: Melanie Schmitz
Around the world at least one woman in every three has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Every year, violence in the home and the community devastates the lives of millions of women. Gender-based violence kills and disables as many women between the ages of 15 and 44 as cancer, and its toll on women’s health surpasses that of traffic accidents and malaria combined.
…Violence against women is a violation of human rights that cannot be justified by any political, religious, or cultural claim. A global culture of discrimination against women allows violence to occur daily and with impunity. Amnesty International calls on you to help us eradicate violence against women and help women to achieve lives of equality and human dignity.”
—Amnesty International USA
As modern women, we have many choices. You can choose to wear a suit to work, to paint your nails fluorescent green or to have a hamburger at lunch. You may decide to put off buying a new pair of glasses in order to pay the electric bill. For some, it may be a more painstaking choice, like choosing between marrying the man your parents set you up with or losing your foothold by dating someone outside your culture. Your daily trek to work could be a choice between taking a cab, the subway or walking the ten blocks to your office. In certain areas of the world, a woman’s decision to take the long road home rather than the shortcut could mean the difference between life and death. Each day, women are faced with the opportunity to make decisions that could change the course of their lives dramatically and in a split second.
From time to time, those changes are powerful but not immediately recognizable as being so. A few years ago, a very close friend of mine revealed to me that she had been physically assaulted, threatened and held against her will by a former boyfriend. In that moment, her words nearly became tangible. It was as if every syllable that rolled off her tongue was a snapping link in the chains that had been biting into her skin for months. She was no longer a victim of abuse, she was a survivor. She subsequently related to me how her fear of this man had held her back from speaking up, from even hinting that something was wrong to anyone. In recent days, several other women have come forward and shared with me their own stories of abuse, sexual assault, and domestic bullying. Since then, many of their lives have improved, slowly in some cases, but always steadily.
Making the decision to speak out against abuse is a very personal one. In fact, it may be one of the most important decisions that many women will ever have to make in their lives, because the ridiculous and horrifying fact remains that nearly 70% of women worldwide have suffered violence and abuse, many at the hands of a spouse or partner. Even more heartbreaking is the 83% of young girls in the United States who have been victims of some form of sexual harassment while in school. Being scared to say something is not uncommon. Being afraid of worsening your situation is a very real fear. But the choice to shake off your demons and raise your hand for help may be the best thing that will ever happen to you, and there are so many out there who are waiting to pick you up and help you out of the darkness.
This Valentine’s Day, make a choice. Decide to be a survivor, a supporter or both. The fearless men and women of V-Day.org have chosen to mark the day, and the organization’s 15th anniversary, by recruiting others all across the world to their groundbreaking effort, “One Billion Rising”. They explain, “The concept of the campaign is simple. If you take into account the statistic that 1 out of 3 women will experience violence in her lifetime, you are left with the staggering statistic that over 1 billion women on this planet will be impacted by violence. On V-Day’s 15th Anniversary, [February 14th, 2013], we are inviting one billion women and those who love them to walk out, dance, rise up, and demand an end to this violence” (vday.org, 2013). You can get involved by finding a local event, pasting up a sticker on your cubicle, submitting your own story, or starting a movement in your community.
If you only do one thing on Cupid’s Day this year (aside from buying up all the discount heart-shaped chocolates on February 15th), make sure you speak up about ending violence against women. After all, the best way to show your love for someone is by breaking the silence and ending the cycle.
Happy Valentine’s Day, you fearless warrior-women.