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More than one billion people in 200 countries mobilized last year to raise awareness about violence against women and girls, but One Billion Rising is seemingly just getting started.
That was evident on Valentine’s Day in West Hollywood, where hundreds of women — and the men who love them — participated in the “One Billion Rising for Justice” kickoff event.
The global day of action is a campaign of the V-Day movement, which is celebrating its 16th year. Lindsey Horvath, a global coordinator for One Billion Rising in Los Angeles, said the event was held in the heart of the “V Season,” which is historically known as the time to watch “The Vagina Monologues” and start empowering women.
“It’s traveling everywhere, and that’s because it’s an important cause,” she said. “Who wants to see violence against women and girls anymore? No one, and that’s why people are rising up.”
Horvath said the organization is now asking communities to define what “true justice” is. The organization has begun to question why prisons are places where people are further harmed or violated, and it has a prison initiative that it believes is a big part of the conversation to end oppression in all of its forms, she said.
“A lot of the women who have been incarcerated are victims of sexual or domestic violence,” Horvath added. “Violence begetting violence is not what we want. We want a culture of healing. We want a culture of transformation. We want a culture of justice.”
That effort is in addition to other efforts the organization pursues throughout the year. Horvath said One Billion Rising recently constructed a safe house in the Congo for women and girls who have experienced sexual and domestic violence.
While the effort is international, she said the conversation is just as pertinent in the U.S. Horvath said she recently learned of a domestic disturbance that occurred in the building next to her apartment.
“The truth is, it happens right here at home. …We often think these atrocities are happening far away, but it could be right next door,” Horvath said. “So here in West Hollywood, we have to remain vigilant. We have to shine the light on those dark places and end the violence.”
She said the response has been “great,” and that was displayed by the turnout last Friday, when actress Jane Fonda, actor Dylan McDermott and West Hollywood Mayor Abbe Land praised the initiative. Musician Lili Hadyn sang “Here Is The Rose”, a song inspired by One Billion Rising.
“We will together rise and dance and join the one billion people all across the world ending violence against women and girls,” Land told the enthusiastic crowd.
McDermott, whose adopted mother, Eve Ensler, wrote “The Vagina Monologues”, said his mother envisioned having one billion people unite against violence toward women and girls.
“And I didn’t believe her. I didn’t think it was possible. And then, of course, she did it,” he said. “When I think of Eve, anything is possible. You know, I have two daughters, and I want them to live in a world where there is no violence. I think it’s important for men to rise up and stop the violence against women, and it starts with us because unfortunately we are the ones inflicting violence against women. We have to change the consciousness. We have to change the thought patterns. We have to change everything. And it begins here. It begins today.”
Fonda said her mother was the victim of childhood sexual abuse, which eventually led to her suicide. She said practically every close girlfriend of hers has been sexually abused through incest.
“This touches every corner of our life,” Fonda added.
Without citing sources, she said at least one billion women have been victims of violence, and that approximately 300,000 have been raped or attacked on college campuses. Fonda said one in three women in the military are raped, and more than 12 million women are rape survivors.
“We have to get out of our heads. Being in our heads hasn’t worked. …We have to get into our bodies,” she said, adding that participants must envision what a world free of violence and good justice would look like.
The actress said it’s “just mind-boggling” how the movement has spread. She said football players in Peru would be wearing the One Billion Rising logo on their jerseys during their equivalent of the Super Bowl. In Lima, officials have been dedicating construction sites as being free of sexual violence, Fonda said.
“Let’s stop being bystanders and start being ‘upstanders’ and standing up for victims and survivors, exposing violators and perpetrators, including the corporations that inflict injustice and economic violence on the employees. We have to be whistleblowers,” she added.
Horvath said the effort still has more potential. She said she participated in a conference call recently with representatives from Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Palestine — all on the same call.
“They’re rising in the rain in London. They’re rising in the snow in Atlanta. I mean, they’re rising everywhere, and I think that’s a testament to how strong and how broad and how important this movement is,” she said.
Prior to the event, Councilman John Duran said it is “really tragic” what women endure throughout the world. However, he was pleased that West Hollywood could help raise awareness.
“It’s always great when West Hollywood gets to take the lead on something like this. I know there’s a rally downtown too, but we’ve got Jane Fonda and Dylan McDermott, so we rocked it,” Duran said.
For information, visit www.onebillionrising.org or www.vday.org.
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