The roses are wilted and the chocolate boxes are empty signs that we have all survived through another Valentine’s Day. However, there is another V-Day coming up this month. This ‘V” stands not only for valentine, but also for violence, vagina and victory. V-Day is a global movement founded by the author of ‘The Vagina Monologues,” Eve Ensler, to end

Each year, as part of V-Day, a spotlight campaign is chosen to raise awareness and help stop violence against women and girls in a specific location or situation. Universities and organizations throughout the world put on benefit events to support both the V-Day campaign and local organizations fighting domestic violence. It is not a coincidence that V-Day falls around the same time as Valentine’s Day, as this movement is a reminder in the month of love that domestic violence is all around us.

The spotlight campaign of V-Day 2009 focuses on the internal conflict in the Congo that has resulted in the rape of tens of thousands of women. The main cause of the conflict is the Congo’s natural resource of coltan ores. The element tantalum, present in coltan ores, is used in cell phones, computers and PlayStations. The battle for ownership of these mines has resulted in an economic war that is also fought on the bodies of women. Women and girls of the Congo are victims of rape, gang rape, torture and mutilation by armies and rebel groups that can cause death, sterilization and serious medical conditions. For more information on this issue, visit http://www.vday.org or http://www.democracynow.org to view an interview conducted by journalist Amy Goodman on Feb. 9 with Eve Ensler and a Congolese gynecologist.

The situation in the Congo is an extreme and disturbing case, but violence against women does not happen solely in poor and far away developing nations. It happens around the world and in America. It happens to one in every three women; women of all races, creeds, ages and socio-economic status. Take, for example, pop-star Rihanna. She was recently a victim of domestic violence by her 19 year-old boyfriend, an event that has apparently happened more than once. In New York State, 55 percent of female homicide victims are murdered in domestic violence incidents and, just a few weeks ago, a Rochester woman was murdered by her former boyfriend before he himself committed suicide. Violence against women is both a local and a global issue. It is widespread and crosses racial and socio-economic lines.

In Rochester, there are organizations, such as Alternatives for Battered Women, that provides counseling, support and preventive and education programs to stop domestic violence. The Sojourner House, located in the 19th Ward, also provides alternative and supportive housing for women and children who are victims of violence. Local organizations that provide education and options to victims are crucial for stopping the cycle of violence against women and girls. But to do this, they need help from the local community.

There are two events at UR this month that will be raising funds to support ABW and the Sojourner House while also raising awareness about violence against women and girls. On Thursday, Feb. 19, the Undergraduate Council for Women and Gender Studies is showing the film, ‘What I Want My Words to Do to You,” which depicts a writing workshop of female inmates. Next week, there will be a student presentation of ‘The Vagina Monologues,” which addresses issues pertaining to sexuality and abuse. Ninety percent of both events’ entrance fee revenue will be donated to these local anti-violence organizations, and the remaining ten percent will be donated to V-Day’s spotlight campaign on the women of the Congo.

Violence against women and girls is a part of our community and society at large. This cycle can only be stopped by numbers, by people who speak out against violence and raise awareness. Our campus needs to be a part of this global movement. I encourage you to show your support to end violence against women by attending these events on campus or volunteer at one of these anti-violence organizations. Most importantly, however, raise your voice to spread awareness. This is the key to create change. Violence against women and children affects everyone. Get involved and together we can make the ‘V” in V-Day stand for victory, not violence.

Smigelski is a member of
the class of 2010.



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