(Photos by Colleen McDevitt. Click for captions/larger images)
With two left feet, I joined the One Billion Rising flash mob yesterday in Westlake Center. And around the world, more than 201 countries were dancing with me, all with common purpose of ending violence against women.
The global event was prompted by Vagina Monologues writer, Eve Ensler, and references the staggering statistic from that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime.
One Billion Rising gave us one way to approach an issue that makes hearts heavy. I still tremble when reading the graphic details of the gang rape & death of the 23-year-old student from New Dehli.
However, I feel I must follow the story, out of respect to her memory and the many others that go untold (like the mysterious death of overseas Filipina worker Terril Atienza.)
Yet, demonstrations and choreology are just the beginning, tactics to grab attention and stir up the masses. It cannot stop there. The next step to fighting violence against women is looking at systems in place perpetuating it and challenging them one by one.
Around the world, governments are failing to protect women from violence as we continue to see high rates of domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual assault. In our own backyard, the reauthorization of the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is being lingering in Congress for months.
Since its enactment in 1994, the VAWA has increased protections for survivors in the US.
“While politicians continue to play political games with the VAWA, it is the lives of these women that continue to be at risk every day,” says Valerie Francisco, Chairperson of GABRIELA-USA.
As part of their i-VOW to end Violence Against Women Campaign, GABRIELA connects state repression and US militarism to fostering an environment for accelerated occurrences of human trafficking and sexual assault.
Policies such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) reinforce violence towards women by protecting the perpetrators. A high-profiled occurrence was the Subic Bay Rape Case in 2006, where four US marines were charged by the Filipino government for gang-raping a woman, but with the VFA they were allowed to return to the US and were acquitted.
A culture shift needs to happen as well. Misogynistic and repressive messages are so engraved in daily practices and mainstream media, that people may not even notice the nuances that support rape culture and violence-glorification.
I believe we need to confront what is at the root of this – patriarchy and conforming gender roles – if there is to be true liberation for everyone.
V-day has passed, but there will be more “Risings” to fight violence against women.
Both events are free with sliding scale donations and open to all allies and supporters.