WU students take part in anti-violence rally at the State Capitol

by University Communications,

People from more than 200 countries demanded an end to violence against women and girls by taking part in the One Billion Rising movement Feb. 14.

One of them was Joellen Sweeney ’14, a Spanish and theatre major who attended a rally at the Oregon State Capitol.

“The goal of this event was to break the silence surrounding issues of domestic and sexual violence towards women, to give survivors an opportunity to speak out, and to give their allies an opportunity to stand in support of their courage,” Sweeney says.

One Billion Rising is a worldwide movement where people protest violence through dance, art and testimonials. At the Salem event, Sweeney and her roommate, psychology major Rachel Ross ’14, held protest signs that read, “Love should never hurt. We rise for justice.”

“I was intrigued by the idea of so many people across the world participating in events on the same day,” Sweeney says. “I was most inspired by the courage of the women who shared personal stories about the violence they had suffered.”

The United Nations estimates one of every three women is beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused by a partner in her lifetime.

In Salem, Jayne Downing, executive director of Mid-Valley Women’s Crisis Services, said that as many as 21,000 local victims contacted Mid-Valley last year about domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking.

This is why international organizations are urging countries to adopt preventative and supportive legislation — such as the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA). One Billion Rising is another way in which people are championing for the cause.

“In light of the recent string of highly publicized sexual assaults here in Salem, I think events like this that seek to bring attention to the issue are important,” Sweeny says.

“For me, it served as a reminder that apathetic silence or quiet displeasure are unlikely to solve anything; when we raise our voices and take a stand for what we believe, we begin to have a chance of making change.”

• Article by Natalie Pate ’15, politics and French/Francophone studies major