It’s called V-Day: V for victory, for valentine and for vagina. It’s a global strike, a revolution set for Feb. 14. It’s an invitation for one billion women and those who love them to rise up and demand an end to violence against women worldwide.
According to V-Day.org, the campaign is “a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations.” To commemorate its 15th anniversary, V-Day launched a new campaign called One Billion Rising. It was inspired by the statistic that one in three women will experience violence in her lifetime. That’s over one billion women worldwide.
Erin Norvell, Employment and Training Coordinator with NIC Human Resources, first learned about V-Day on Facebook. She was inspired to create her own Facebook event to encourage others to use Feb. 14 as an opportunity to spread awareness about violence against women.
Norvell said it would be great to see a student group, such as ASNIC or another club, organize an event to inform the student body about the staggering statistics of violence against women. In the United States, one in four college-aged women will experience a rape or attempted rape during her time at college. In fact, Coeur d’Alene Police investigated the report of an attempted rape in the area of West Hubbard Avenue and North College Drive Jan. 11.
“It’s such a huge issue for college-aged women and men,” she said. “That’s the kicker, I think, getting the men involved. People see it as a women’s issue. It’s not. We’re happy to tell you it’s not a women’s issue. But unless you’re a male who has known someone who’s been raped or experienced something like that, it’s easy to say, ‘Yeah, it’s a terrible thing,’ and then push it off.”
In addition to V-Day, many organizations are working to increase awareness of sexual violence on college campuses. The organization Men Can Stop Rape calls upon men, particularly male college students, to start seeing rape as a men’s issue and take action.
Hollaback is a grassroots initiative that uses photoblogs and iPhone and Droid apps to combat and raise awareness about street harassment. It includes a “Hollaback! Against Campus Harassment” initiative designed to end sexual harassment on college campuses.
Right here on NIC’s campus, there are opportunities available for women in transition to become empowered and acquire new skills, such as Opportunities, a free three-week class for women offered by the Center for New Directions.
Women from all backgrounds and age groups find their way to Opportunities. A variety of experiences draw them together. It might be an experience with domestic violence, a divorce, the loss of an important person. It might be that a woman has had a job change, or is looking to bolster her self esteem. She might just need a change of pace. No matter what experience brought them to the class, the connection between the women is that all have gone through some kind of change.
“It’s so everyone can know themselves very well,” said C0-Coordinator Sarah Johnson. “When you do that, you can speak on your own behalf.”
At 58, Linda Gloe had been with the same pharmacy company for 16 years. When the company was bought out in 2012, the employees were given the opportunity to take as much time off as they could without pay.
“I was not sure I’d be going back,” she said. “I decided to go to North Idaho College for help.”
Gloe attended the Opportunities class that ran from Oct. 29 through Nov. 15, 2012. There, she learned how to build confidence, set goals, reduce stress and focus on success. Guest speakers from different fields and careers, all of them women who have “met barriers and overcome challenges,” talked to the students.
“The most important thing I took away from the class was that I was not alone in starting over at my age,” Gloe said. “There were a variety of ages in the class, and we were all there for the same reason.”
Co-Coordinator Sarah Johnson has been teaching a variation of the class for 20 years. Through group activities, sharing and discussions, she helps women learn about the labor market, what employers are looking for and what different jobs pay. Johnson said they assess personality, strengths and career options.
Johnson said she hopes to offer the class two or three times this year.
But before that, V-Day approaches.
The easy thing, Norvell said, is to forget all about V-Day and everything it stands for after Feb. 14. It’s a challenge to remember the issue of violence against women, to talk about it more than once a year and to challenge the status quo.
“It’s an uncomfortable truth,” Norvell said. “Ultimately, it’s not going to stop until people become aware. All the stuff you see out there: ‘It’s your sister, it’s your girlfriend, it’s your mother, it’s your wife, it’s your daughter.’ These are all reasons why it should stop.”