Valentine's Day has come and gone and yet here I am, still celebrating it. My heart reaches out to so many people that a single day has never been able to cover it anyway.
Actually, I don't wait for Valentine's Day to think about those I love. But I recognize that it's a good way to promote something important, and I'll jump right on that bandwagon to raise awareness about an issue that is -- and I'm serious now -- critical to our survival: bringing an End to Violence Against Women.
But doesn't it seem the slightest bit strange to read those words -- violence against women -- in the context of Valentine's Day? Isn't it for lovers, and hearts, and flowers, and chocolates? It's supposed to be about men loving women, not hurting them. It's about people loving each other, and making the extra effort to let each other know it on this particular day. It's meant to be a sweet reminder of the reasons you got together in the first place.
But the reality is, we're not celebrating enough affection, because there is not enough of it going on. According to the United Nations and WHO, one in five women on our planet will be raped in her lifetime. I was one of them. One in three women will be beaten, coerced into sex, or abused by an intimate partner during her lifetime. Most of the violence is perpetrated by family members, and is called domestic abuse. Women aged 15 to 44 are more at risk from domestic violence and rape than from car accidents, cancer, malaria, and war.
The lion's share of the violence is perpetrated by husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends, or ex-boyfriends. In the world, 40 percent to 70 percent of female murder victims were killed by their own partners. Sickening, isn't it? Hard to believe, right? But facts are stubborn things. So, where is the love?
Good question. We need to bring more of it back into the home. More love, respect, and humanity, back into relationships, don't you think? We need this horrific violence to stop. Come on! I'm certain that all the men out there who read the statistics -- the non-violators that is, are trying to wrap their heads around this issue too -- and probably cannot comprehend what brings a man to go after a woman and hurt her in these barbaric ways. Those amongst us who are playing with a full deck know it must end. So as a society, nationally and globally, we all have to do more to stop it.
Domestic abuse crimes haven't traditionally been given the same gravitas as other violent crimes, making it difficult for women to report the abuses -- the violence, and to receive protection. There are 102 nations (states) for example, that have no specific laws or provisions against domestic abuse, and marital rape is NOT a prosecutable offense in at least 53 states. Women often have no place to go once they've reported the violent crimes, and if the perpetrator is not convicted or removed from the home, she is in danger of being hurt all over again -- and possibly killed.
So, on February 14th, along with feeling lovey-dovey about my husband, and appreciating the beautiful roses and hand-written card I received from him, I was dancing my own little dance along with one billion other feet to End Violence Against Women.
For me, this dance, be it virtual or literal, is more than just a show of solidarity. It's more than a mighty noise to the world that we just can't, shouldn't, and won't take it anymore. It is also a message -- our Valentine, if you will, to the millions of women who have died at the hands of a violent abuser -- a message to heaven that we have not forgotten them.
So even though it's February 22nd -- and V-Day is long gone -- I'm still dancing. I'm not going to stop any time soon. If you want your daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, nieces and girlfriends to live without fear of violence, you'll keep dancing too. And btw, happy 'belated' Valentine's Day.