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Students Join Creative Forces to Stop Violence Against Women

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“Rule eight: No one can take anything from you if you do not give it to them.” This is the final line in the 2010 V-Day “spotlight monologue” titled A Teenage Girl’s Guide to Surviving Sex Slavery, by Eve Ensler. 

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“Rule eight: No one can take anything from you if you do not give it to them.” This is the final line in the 2010 V-Day “spotlight monologue” titled A Teenage Girl’s Guide to Surviving Sex Slavery, by Eve Ensler. 

V-Day is a worldwide movement to stop violence against women and girls. The activist organization was started by Ensler, author of the play The Vagina Monologues. Each year the organization chooses a country or region to focus on and it celebrates, or “spotlights,” the women living there. Every fund-raising production of The Vagina Monologues must incorporate a new country and spotlight monologue, written by Ensler, into the show, as well as donate a portion of the profits to the spotlight campaign. 

On February 7, a group of 23 Juilliard women from all divisions performed The Vagina Monologues as a fund-raising V-Day event. Many more students (both men and women) volunteered to decorate the space, gather donations for a raffle, and be a part of the production team, making the School’s fourth annual V-Day event a great success. At the end of an eye-opening, liberating evening, drama student Carmela Corbett performed this year’s spotlight monologue.   

The 2010 spotlight country is the Democratic Republic of Congo, the setting for A Teenage Girl’s Guide to Surviving Sex Slavery. According to the V-Day Web site (vday.org), the D.R.C. is the most dangerous place in the world for women and girls to live. The military conflict in that country has set a precedent for using civilian females as tools of war through torture, humiliation, and slavery. It is estimated that nearly 500,000 women and girls have been raped or sexually tortured since the conflict began in 1996. Also worth noting is that this war, with more than five million dead, has the highest number of casualties since World War II. 

As an activist organization, V-Day has started the City of Joy, a safe home and community for women of the Democratic Republic of Congo. This haven, located in the city of Bukavu, will provide therapy, education, self-defense, arts, and more to females who have fallen victim to torture and/or rape. With skilled volunteers as the teachers and workers, the ultimate goal of the City of Joy is to aid these women in rebuilding and returning to their lives, while empowering them to become leaders and work towards change in their communities.  

However, this is not the only focus for V-Day in 2010. As stated in the monologue title—A Teenage Girl’s Guide to Surviving Sex Slavery—the organization has launched a new program aimed at helping teenage girls around the world find their voices. The new movement, V-Girls, is similar to V-Day in its mission. It acts to stop violence against girls, but also focuses on issues concerning their young lives and minds in hopes of empowering this upcoming generation. The goal is to teach female youth to recognize poor situations and relationships, and stop the violence early. In February, Ensler published her new book, I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World. Similar to The Vagina Monologues, the book contains fictional stories and monologues inspired by interviews with young girls from various cultures, locations, and backgrounds. The different perspectives portrayed act to instill pride and comfort in the young reader, ensuring her that being an individual is marvelous, and being a girl fantastic.  

The V-Girls movement and the launch of Enlser’s new book come at an appropriate time. This year, Congress declared February National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. According to the Teen Violence Prevention Project, teen dating violence has risen in recent years, and it is hoped that through education about healthy relationships, parental awareness, and community support, the trend of violence will begin to turn downward. 

Ensler and those involved in the V-Day movement have the same hope as they work year round to shed light on abuse and unfair treatment of women and girls around the world. And with the success of this year’s V-Day event at Juilliard, many students have begun to take part in the movement.

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