Are You Ready to RISE Against Violence? Global One Billion Rising Campaign Invites You to Take Action of February 14th

It's three weeks until Massachusetts White Ribbon Day and one day until Valentine's Day. What do these two events have in common? Thanks to artist and activist Eve Ensler, One Billion Rising offers one connection: One Billion Rising is a global celebration of genuine love that moves beyond harmful stereotypes and asks us all to commit to being part of the solution in ending violence against women. Eve wrote this beautiful "Man Prayer" that speaks to the role of men in this work.

JDI member programs across Massachusetts have organized events for this week as part of the One Billion Rising campaign. We hope that you'll take part in your own way. Perhaps talking to your friends and colleagues about Massachusetts White Ribbon Day on Thursday March 7th and asking them to join you as a White Ribbon Day Ambassador.

From time to time we will bring you guest bloggers to share their views. Today, we have a post to share from Rob Okun, Editor of Voice Male magazine, who offers his thoughts on One Billion Rising.

Reinventing Valentine's Day
By Rob Okun

For me, Valentine’s Day is a teachable moment more than a holiday. It’s a perfect time to promote healthy relationships more than romantic gifts and candlelight dinners. Don’t get me wrong. I like a sweet evening out with my honey as much as anybody. I just have a hard time being dreamy-eyed if I’m simultaneously turning a blind eye to the outbreak of domestic and sexual violence still plaguing us. It’s a disorder very difficult to treat.

Domestic and sexual abuse strains have long been resistant to vaccines of chocolate, champagne, diamond brooches, and bouquets of flowers. This year, though, there’s a potent new injection availableundefinedOne Billion Rising! It carries no live yeast, and was not developed in a pharmaceutical laboratory. It came out of the cauldron of change playwright-activist Eve Ensler (“The Vagina Monologues”) and her cohort at devised as a prescription for peace and vitality. It’s one the World Health Organization would be wise to consider including in its protocols.

V-Day, launched on Valentine’s Day 1998, has long worked to end sexual violence internationally. It chose its 15th anniversary to call for a global strike, a time to “walk out, rise up, and demand an end to violence against women.”

One Billion Rising is certainly a protest against violence and a demonstration of the collective strength, numbers, and solidarity across borders of so many. Yet it offers an unorthodox work out plan that calls for exercising the muscles of change through dance, song, and speaking up. As organizers say, “It breaks the rules…it’s free. No corporation control it. It joins us and pushes us to go further.”

In two hundred countries around the world today, women and men are on the streets saying yes to peace in the home and in our hearts as much as emphatically declaring no to violence everywhere. Activists are literally turning Valentine’s Day on its head.

As the blood stimulates our collective brain, hopefully more people will be moved to challenge rape and rape culture, sex trafficking, sexual abuse of children, and domestic violence. One Billion Rising is airborne now, an avian vaccine carried by doves of possibility. In the days that follow, as reports pour in from around the world describing demonstrations and celebrations, teach-ins and speak-outs, it will mark a time to reflect on our common course in the struggle to end violence, from the Congo to the Commonwealth.

Eve Ensler and V-Day have long recognized men’s role in working to prevent violence. She has partnered with men and men’s organizations for many years and cites men’s violence prevention efforts as integral in the work of creating a world where all are safe. Last month, she wrote a “Man Prayer,” a moving invocation recited in 16 languages in a film by Tony Stroebel that’s available on youtube.

In it, she invites men to consider being the kind of men “whose confidence comes from the depth of my giving/who understands that vulnerability is my greatest strength/who creates space rather than dominates it/who appreciates listening more than knowing/who seeks kindness over control/who cries when the grief is too much/who refuses the slap, the gun, the choke, the insult, the punch.” She encourages men to “not be afraid to get lost…[to] cherish touch more than performance and the experience more than getting there.” She invites men to “be brave enough to share my fear and shame and gather the other men to do the same” and to “stop pretending and open the parts of me that have long been numb.

The prayer concludes, “May I cherish, respect, and love my mother. May the resonance of that love translate into loving all women and all living things.”

However we celebrate Valentine’s Day - including those candlelight dinners - take a moment to consider Eve Ensler’s “Man Prayer.” When married to commitment and action, it is a key ingredient in the vaccine necessary to cure the influenza of violence that, sadly, too many still contract.

Rob Okun is editor of Voice Male magazine, and a psychotherapist practicing in Amherst, Massachusetts. He can be reached at