February 14, 2013 marks the 15th anniversary of VDay, a global movement to end violence against women and girls. A cry has gone out around the world to dance, rise and demand an end to the violence. On February 14, one billion people around the globe will do just that. I will be joining them.
I am rising because when I returned home from V to the 10th (VDay’s 10th anniversary) in New Orleans in 2008, I returned to the news that my father had violated the most sacred trust a grandfather and uncle can violate.
In 2012, my father went to jail. I helped put him there. It was a hard thing to do. I love my father. He worked hard to take care of our family of seven through many times of financial difficulty. I have many great memories from my childhood. He taught all of us what it meant to follow your dream even if others think you shouldn’t; that you have to have a strong work ethic; that you honor your commitments; that family is the most important thing; that you stand up for what you believe in. So it was disorienting, after spending an intense weekend organizing volunteers for the biggest movement in the world to end violence against women and girls, to come home to this.
I have been involved in my community’s efforts to raise awareness on violence against women for over 13 years. I have done many projects with our local Battered Women’s Shelter and Rape Crisis Center. I helped initiate a teen dating violence curriculum when HB 19 passed in Ohio several years ago. But not until this happened directly to my family, did I truly understand how brave the women and girls are that share publicly their experience of violence and sexual assault. I mean I knew they were brave, but I don’t think I truly understood what that meant.
I have been asked if the painful journey of working to put my father in jail was worth it. There are family relationships that will never repair because the truth is too heartbreaking. It takes its toll on emotional and physical health. And the story has to be told over and over again which is exhausting and painful. Even with the work I have done in my community and with VDay it is difficult to reconcile the father I knew then with the father I know now. I don’t know if I ever will.
When you share your story, when you hold the person accountable for his actions no matter what push back you get, there will be loss. Loss of trust, of family, of confidence, of personal wellness, of how you thought it should have been.
But I know now why women tell their story, because what you gain is yourself – the opportunity to be your whole self. And it allows you to hold space and witness for our daughters and sisters around the globe as they fight to heal.
Totally worth it.