This morning my funny Valentine awoke at dawn. We made chocolate chip cupcakes for her daddy and grandparents before she set off to preschool with a bright pink bow. To my Isabella, as with most three-year-olds, Valentine's Day is innocence and chocolate, balloons and unconditional love, peace and harmony.
But -- tragically -- for far too many women and girls in our community and around the world, Valentine's Day innocence is broken. As a former domestic violence and child sexual assault prosecutor, I know all too well that one of three women will be raped or beaten in their lifetime -- and though I fervently pray that my daughter won't be among them, the odds are against her and her peers.
Unless we treat violence against women as the worldwide epidemic it is.
Unless we act through our representatives in the U.S. Congress to pass the Violence Against Women Act with full protections for ALL victims female and male gay and straight Native American and immigrant rich and poor alike.
Unless we help our servicewomen and men fight the Invisible War of military rape and sexual trauma.
Unless we honor the victims of Sandy Hook www.sandyhookpromise.org/ -- murdered two months ago today in Newtown, Conn. -- by rising up to demand a plan for gun violence prevention that includes background checks, mental health services and family violence intervention.
Unless we support the advocates in our midst with real resources to assist the survivors. The brave women and girls who have come forward during this debate are remarkable. If others are feeling triggered by this discussion, remember that confidential help is a click or phone call away for sexual assault at www.rainn.org and 1.800.656.HOPE or domestic violence at http://www.thehotline.org and 1.800.799.SAFE survivors.
Unless we decide that being parents means giving our children better odds for a safer future.
Unless we respond to a call to service and action and decide to make a difference in whichever way we can.
So I'm taking my daughter from preschool to City Hall for San Francisco's One Billion Rising dance.
I'm rising with and for my daughter on Valentine's Day because being her mom means committing to giving her and her generation better odds for a safer future. I want her generation to see something different; to break the cycle of violence and sexism; to end the conspiracy of silence; to reject the slut shaming and victim blaming that revictimizes survivors.
In that spirit, I urge all of you to join One Billion Rising in your community to dance, to release, and to recommit in this fight. Then call 202.224.3121 to contact Congress and demand action on the VAWA, gun violence prevention and other policies that create a safer world for all America's children.
Valentine's chocolate is sweet -- but reducing the odds of violence against women and girls is an even sweeter and lasting gift.