Over the past two weeks, we have heard egregiously disrespectful statements about women, along with deeply misguided assertions about sexual and domestic violence. We have also heard in conversations, in our communities, in the press, and from our leaders, again and again, the simple and powerful word: ENOUGH.
As a survivor of sexual violence and advocate who has dedicated 25 years to working for change, I am encouraged by the fact that people across the country are insisting on deeper examination, less judgment, more compassion, accountability, justice, and change. At the same time, it shouldn't take a video or hot mic recording to incite outrage. Our attention and outrage shouldn't be limited to one moment in time, one case, a collection of headlines, or one person. We need to be outraged today and every day that we live in a society in which half our citizens are devalued, discriminated against, and dehumanized. We need to be outraged today and every day that one-third of women in this country will be physically or sexually violated in her lifetime.
As First Lady Michelle Obama expressed so pointedly, "This is not something that we can ignore. It's not something we can just sweep under the rug... Because this was not just a lewd conversation. This wasn't just locker-room banter." Indeed, "It's about basic human decency. It's about right and wrong. And we simply cannot endure this, or expose our children to this any longer―not for another minute... Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say enough is enough."
And yet, moments like this one, as difficult as they are to stomach, are so important. With the deeply entrenched attitudes and beliefs that have perpetuated sexual assault for so long on full display, the need for change is urgent and impossible to ignore. As anyone who is working to bring about far-reaching cultural change knows, the effort to summon, sustain, and harness the collective will of our society, then seize a moment of outrage and give it a productive direction, is hard work.
At the Joyful Heart Foundation, our first priority has always been to address the needs and wellness of survivors, in this case, survivors who are deeply affected by the words that have made their way into the public discourse. So our first response to recent events was to communicate with our community--to encourage survivors to take care of themselves--and to give people the tools they need to support a survivor who discloses to them. And now we must turn our attention toward the larger conversation.
For too long we have relied on those who have experienced violence to be the brave ones to speak out, stand up, and fire back. So it's time now for the rest of our society--especially men--to pick up the torch, and to sustain the fire.
Today, we launched a new PSA campaign that mirrors back the societal attitudes that have excused, minimized, and helped perpetuate violence against women and girls for so long.
These attitudes are not confined to locker rooms. They are in our boardrooms, our living rooms, on school yards, and everywhere else. Our campaign, titled "ENOUGH," is a series of spots featuring notable actors and artists, co-produced by Joyful Heart and Viacom Velocity; directed by our founder and president Mariska Hargitay; developed by creative director Rachel Howald from Invisible Man; edited by Jean Taylor at Wax; and distributed by Boom Broadcast--all who have generously donated their time to make this possible. Thank you.
This campaign, and the men who gave their time and voice, gives me hope: hope that men will join us, and become an active part of the movement to address, prevent and--one day--end this violence. Hope that men will no longer be silent--in speech and in action-- about the violence and abuse that other men perpetrate.
To say it most simply:
Men, it is our hope and invitation to you to lead your communities, your families, and each other in redefining what it means to be a man. That you and others stop using language that demeans, devalues and degrades women and girls, that teases men and boys for not being "manly" enough. Know that your voice and your words are powerful, so use them wisely. We encourage you to express your full range of emotions in healthy ways and to express love, kindness and equal affection to young boys and girls in your life. Hold each other accountable to demonstrate respect and nonviolence for the people you love, for your partners, wives, children, neighbors, friends, mothers, as well as for people you've never met, and for yourselves. Make the choice to listen to, respect, uplift and seek equality with each and every woman and girl and with everyone in your life. Change can only happen when men are actively involved in disrupting the culture that seeds the conditions that allow this violence to occur and continue.
Mariska has said so eloquently:
"Deep cultural change does not happen overnight. It's going to take time. It's also going to take smart, engaged, committed, creative, determined people applying their best thinking to these issues. It's going to take enough people in enough communities deciding that they've had ENOUGH."
Join us. Together, we can raise a generation of boys to respect women and girls. Together, we can, we will, we must change this culture. Together, we can end this violence.
Say #ENOUGH and take the pledge to change the culture. There are things every single person can do. Today, I ask for your pledge, your promise, to do them.
Make your voice heard and call on others to join you to say #ENOUGH. Change your profile picture, and send a message to your community online to do the same. You can do it all quickly and easily right here.
Challenge your community--especially the men in your life--to join you in your commitment. Use this URL to share the pledge on social media, in an email, on a listserv you belong to--in whatever way works for you to reach as many people as possible:
Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network
1 (800) 656-4673 | www.rainn.org
National Domestic Violence Hotline
1 (800) 799-7233 | www.ndvh.org
1in6 | www.1in6.org
1in6 has resources specifically for men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experience in childhood, and those who care about them.
You are not alone.
Maile Zambuto is the Chief Executive Officer of the Joyful Heart Foundation.