“A society is judged by its treatment of its weakest and most vulnerable members.”
– U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moonin in a 2007 speech which echoed sentiments of Aristotle, Mahatma Gandhi and many others
Sometimes, I have moments when I realize how extraordinarily lucky – and, at times, naive – I really am. I had one of those moments this week: two friends and I were in my kitchen. I was telling them about the One Billion Rising campaign to raise awareness and inspire action to end violence against women around the world. I told them the chilling statistic: one out of three women in their lifetime will be beaten or raped. “It’s appalling,” I said, “and in our community of wealth, education, and privilege that statistic must be much lower so it must mean that it is higher in other communities!” They both looked at me steadily. Unbeknownst to me, both of them had been victims of domestic violence. Right there at my kitchen table the statistic wasn’t 1 in 3, it was 2 in 3.
Make no mistake. Violence against women happens everywhere, not just in 3rd world countries and impoverished neighborhoods. Make no assumption. Laws don’t always protect: marital rape is legal in dozens of countries and condoned in far more. Make it perfectly clear. Rape and domestic violence happens in every socio-economic stratum, every race, every culture.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” – Fred Rogers
The One Billion Rising campaign and the One Billion Rising routine are designed to raise awareness and inspire action. Sometimes, when faced with an issue that is this frightening and this widespread, I find myself either turning away or losing heart. I often feel that I cannot bear it or I feel overwhelmed by the largeness, the pervasiveness of the suffering. The invitation of this campaign and this routine is to look squarely at the tragedy and terror of violence against women, with a strong, compassionate heart and the resolve to be part of the change.
One of the songs I chose for the One Billion Rising routine, Shaking the Tree by Peter Gabriel and Youssou N’Dour, is one of my favorites (shared with me years ago by one of my favorite friends ~ thank you, Louisa). The lyrics of the chorus are, “Souma Yergon, Sou Nou Yergon / We are shakin’ the tree.” The Sengalese words translate to, “If we had known, if only we had known!” As if they were speaking directly to me, I can now say that I do know and I am strong enough and courageous enough to shake the tree of complacency and ignorance. I hope you will join me.
Go to the One Billion Rising web site and take the pledge to be part of the wave of love that ends violence against women everywhere. As Mother Theresa reminds us, “We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.” Commit to doing one small act of great love.
Tomorrow, part two of the One Billion Rising post will look at the heart of the practice for the One Billion Rising routine.
If you need help or if you want to help, please see the list of resources on the One Billion Rising page on the Helpful Info menu to the right.