With Valentine’s Day on the verge here in America, love is a constant conversation. Chocolates and cherries are given as gifts, roses are received, perhaps people are even proposing. Like most things, Valentine’s Day has changed over the years, from its origin to its modern meaning. Despite what Valentine it’s named after, what month you celebrate it, and for what reasons, Valentine’s Day is something we can all rally around, though perhaps not for the reasons you’d expect. V-Day, as some of us know it, is the most massive global movement to end violence against women and girls in human history.
A creative catalyst to increase awareness, V-Day’s goal is global solidarity, to take a stance on a stigmatized issue. The One Billion Rising website reveals, “1 in 3 women across the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. That’s ONE BILLION WOMEN AND GIRLS. Every February, we rise – in hundreds of countries across the world – to show our local communities and the world what one billion looks like…we rise to show we are determined to create a new kind of consciousness – one where violence will be resisted until it is unthinkable.”
Wanting to work with this idea and knowing how domestic violence doesn’t discriminate – it happens in every country and socioeconomic class, in every race and religion, in tribes and lgbt communities, regardless of age, I decided to do my own awareness activity. The solidarity theme song for the history-making movement is “Break the Chain,” so I implemented my idea around that. Being that young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, three times the national average, I wanted to pinpoint where the problem persisted. One word that is repeated throughout the song is the word “rise,” so I thought about how I could use high school students to physically represent the word rise, and came to a conclusion: cheerleaders.
I enlisted four local high schools to help: John Marshall High School, Cameron High School, Paden City High School, and Wheeling Park High School, who brought some clout to my creativity, as they are the OVAC AAAAA and WV State Cheerleading Champions. Since cheerleaders delivered two parts of the definition of rise, “to be built up, erected, or constructed, to move from a lower to a higher position; move upward; ascend,” they were a perfect starting point. They physically rise when they’re lifted in the air, and they lift others up. I used footage from them, input with teen dating violence statistics, to create a simple V-Day video.
Being that victims of violence make up some of the definition of rise, “to get up after falling or being thrown down,” it seemed like an appropriate word to bring awareness to. The movement itself is also dutiful to the definition, “to become active in opposition or resistance, to come into action.” Violence against women isn’t a secular struggle, it’s a global Gordian knot, not a women’s issue, but a human issue. I am thankul for the four schools who helped and joined in the global solidarity of this song. The V-Day campaign clamors to “create a new collage” when it comes to violence against women and girls, and that’s exactly what we did: four campuses who compete against each other came together, rivals reconciled to rise together, adversaries turned into activists as they banded together to break the chain and end the silence on dating violence.