On Valentine’s Day, local men and women, as well as their counterparts across the globe, stood up against violence toward women and girls during the 15th annual V-Day, an international movement to end the attacks.
In West Hollywood, celebrities, local officials and residents denounced the violence during a celebration of the anniversary of V-Day and One Billion Rising, a single-day global action to raise awareness about the one in three women who are raped or beaten during their lifetime.
To do so, organizers and approximately 100 participants performed a flash mob using a dance choreographed by choreographer Debbie Allen on Holloway Drive near the Sal Guarriello Memorial Park. Actress Erin Cottrell, who helped lead the dance, said the demonstration was “extremely important” in the effort to end violence against women.
“People need to see us dancing in the streets,” she said. “They need to see this. They need to become aware that this needs to stop immediately.”
West Hollywood City Councilwoman Abbe Land’s office helped organize the event. She said the city council approved participation in the event a couple months ago, and that the city had been facilitating performances of “The Vagina Monologues” by Eve Ensler for several years. In fact, the city hosted a performance, “The MENding Monologues”, on Feb. 16.
“I feel that we’re at a tipping point,” Land said. “All across the world, people are saying, ‘No more violence against women.’”
She said the event intertwined community, compassion, safety, empowerment and equality — all values that the city of West Hollywood holds dear.
“There is not a better place to kick off the activities in the L.A. Basin than the city of West Hollywood,” Land added.
Lindsay Horvath, a regional coordinator for One Billion Rising, said West Hollywood was the first city to officially support the campaign. She said violence against women and girls will come to a halt, and the end began with the celebration on Feb. 14.
“West Hollywood is rising,” Horvath said. “One billion women and girls being violated is an atrocity. But one billion people rising in a commitment to end that violence is a revolution.”
Actress Jane Fonda, a V-Day board member, said 203 countries were coming together on Feb. 14 to raise awareness about violence against women. She said steel workers, bishops, nuns, presidents and the Dalai Lama were all collaborating in the effort.
“I’m especially touched by the men who are here,” Fonda said. “It shows it’s not just women. Men care too.”
She asked attendees to make a pledge to one thing a year to end the violence. Fonda said that pledge can include believing a child who says he or she has been abused, and going to the authorities in such cases, even if the suspect is a family member.
“It can mean never, ever, ever voting for a politician who trivializes rape,” she added.
Fonda said she believed the day of action was a “huge first step” in “saying enough already.” She also praised the moves of the flash mob performers.
“Dancing is the opposite of violence,” Fonda said. “Dancing is joyful and beautiful and sexy and … it gives you energy and empowerment. It’s a great way for us to express ourselves.”
Actress Anne Hathaway said she couldn’t be prouder to spend the morning with the participants in West Hollywood.
“If people who have experienced the worst of what the world can offer can rise up and find joy, and they can find hope and they can find love in their hearts, then so can everyone else — so can all of us,” she said. “And that is what we are here for.”
Hathaway said that in the future, advocates will see change, and children will ask their parents why they had to rise up and spread the word about violence against women.
“And that is the world that I one day want to see,” she said.
Actress Marisa Tomei, who performed in the original production of “The Vagina Monologues”, also spoke. She said she looks forward to the day that advocates can spend their energy creating, building, making art and singing — instead of speaking out against violence toward women.
“When women and men can really live in their bodies and feel safe in our own bodies, we have access to all of our intuition, all of our wisdom, all of our strength,” Tomei said.
Horvath said events would be held throughout the day, specifically in downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Venice. She said UN Women, the United Nation’s entity for gender equality and women empowerment, would rise that evening as well.
For information, visit www.vday.org or www.onebillionrising.org.
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