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RH Reality Check

One Billion Rising: Ending the Pandemic of Violence Against Women

Every day, girls and women the world over face a broad range of assaults which, in the aggregate, inhibit equality everywhere. In the United States we are dealing with a legislative assault on women’s rights, well documented here, that few people understand as a real and violent assault on women’s physical integrity and right to bodily autonomy. More often than not, people think of the “war on women” in the United States as a politically expeditious metaphor when it is not. There is nothing abstract or metaphorical about it. That’s too squeam-inducing for many people to consider. However, in direct and more obvious, “forcible” and “legitimately” recognized ways, women in the United States  experience directly recognizable physical violence, too. Among developed nations, the United States has a higher than average rate of violence against women. This violence sits squarely in the full spectrum of violence, much more crippling and extreme, that takes place in other parts of the world. It’s all of a cloth.

Last Fall, I wrote an article in the Huffington Post called “Violence Against Women is a Global Pandemic.” If you click on the link, you can review the still relevant deplorable statistics. It goes without saying, a scant 10 months later, that data regarding the chronic and oppressive reality of systematized gender-based violence are still valid. For an updated, dynamic and mappable resource, it's useful to explore the Womenstats database, the most comprehensive of its kind in the world.

The good news is that more and more people and organizations are working diligently to raise awareness and confront the pervasive risks that girls and women face just for being female. Among upcoming efforts are the United Nations UNITE to End Violence Against Women campaign, which recognizes the 25th of every month as an awareness raising Orange Day;Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October; The Pixel Project's Paint it Purple initiative; and, at the end of November, the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence takes place.

A visionary in this fight is Eve Ensler, who today released a short film on YouTube, One Billion Rising, to raise awareness for a Feb. 14, 2013 global strike to end violence against women. This strike is being organized by V-Day, the international organization she founded 14 years ago whose vision it is to end this violence. They are doing this by organizing a global network of activists, artists, grass-roots movements and more. The #1billionrising movement imparts – to quote a Tweet, an amazing message: “1 Billion Women Violated is an Atrocity. 1 Billion Dancing is a Revolution."

Do you know what the laws in your community regarding domestic violence are? Do you know what the statistics regarding rape, sexual abuse and incestdomestic violence, spousal murder sex trafficking,genital mutilation (yes, including in the United States ) and other forms of violence are and how they affect everyone?


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A key component of V-Day's mission is to utilize art as a change agent. International anti-violence awareness and fundraising projects, like this year’s The Pixel Project’s Music for PixelsPortraits for Pixels and the upcoming Paint it Purple, engage people who might otherwise be disinterested by embracing the same philosophy.

Dancing, by itself , won’t solve the problem, of course. It’s hard work to literally change the planet. Literally, change it. The truth is, too, that the idea of a rising, especially of #1billion implies violence at first glance, suggesting as it traditionally has, armed revolution against oppression. But, that’s not what’s happening here. This is a peaceful movement to end violence and to use art to do it. Its outrageous goal is that we take it seriously. One in three women on the planet are raped, beaten or worse in their lifetimes. What is unimportant, funny, incidental or marginal about that? What is there not to be taken seriously?

Our battle is in raising awareness and changing culture. It’s in getting people to understand the scope and depth of the problem. The roots of the problem. The pervasive, everyday nature of it. It’s in using language that realistically represents reality, instead of cloaking debilitating violence in ‘family friendly’ terms. Or, glamorizing it in media. Or burying it in shame. Anything, it seems, but honestly considering its horrible truth.

The audacious purpose of V-Day’s #1billionrising campaign, or the Pixel Project's art-infused initiatives, is to raise awareness, money and hope; to create concrete structures and action plans; to effect true systematized change; to empower women and girls, men and boys, in ways that transform communities. V-Day has a detailed toolkit designed to engage everyone, everywhere, in the fight to stop gender-based violence. It includes information about sharing, publicizing, hosting events and actually striking on February 14th. This means you don’t go to work, don’t go to school, tell people what you are doing and why and enlist those around you to actively get involved in ending violence in their communities.

If you are interested, share ONE BILLION RISING with your networks, sign up for updates, follow V-Day on Facebook and Twitter and tell our friends to do the same. While you are at it, consider participating in the Pixel Project Paint it Purple Cupcake campaign during Domestic Violence Awareness Month and check out the incredible work being done during 16 Days of Activism in November. These things make a difference to girls and women everywhere and, for most of us, cost very little in either time, money or effort.

Soraya Chemaly

Soraya L. Chemaly is a feminist and satirist whose work focuses on cultivating feminism through humour. She writes about gender, and gender absurdities, for The Huffington Post, Alternet, Role/Reboot, The Feminist Wire, BitchFlicks and Fem2.0 among others. or Twitter @schemaly.

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