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Every year on St. Valentine's Day Eve Ensler, and millions of women working with her spend the day working to end domestic violence. For many people, it's an unwanted reminder that "what happens behind closed doors, isn't staying there". For some of us, it's a reminder that while we've worked so hard, we're still not there-- we haven't abolished partner-violence, parent-against-child violence, domestic violence is still a way of life for too many people.

One would be too many.

We talk about how many people are hurt by domestic violence, spouses, kids, even parents. 
We  talk about sources of help, and where you can go to get assistance.
We talk about how it feels, to be that abused person, the helplessness, the acceptance, even how much we love/loved our abusers-- because it's so hard to understand if you haven't been there.
We talk about how to eliminate rape culture, how to fight it, make it unacceptable in the way racism is unacceptable-- often just pulling back that curtain, telling and explaining it accomplishes our goal, but it's slow, we have to educate an entire world!
 
Mostly, we talk about the women and kids who need our help so much to escape that cycle, escape that circular ball of hurt. 

This year is a little different, this year we're not talking, we're singing!

Now, I can sing, but I'm very self-conscious of my voice. So I won't be singing with the women. Let the songbirds fill our ears with joyous notes and teach us many things.

I can dance-- but I never liked it, so I won't be dancing to raise awareness, or joining a flashmob.

I can stand, though. I can stand like a motherfucker! I can stand here, on this metaphysical line forever.

And I can write, and raise my voice.

So, that's what I'm doing.

Domestic violence hurts. It causes terrorised kids, and it kills.
I should know, I was beaten by my mother, and terrorised by her. I have had dear friends beaten by intimate partners, and know what it's like to be so emotionally battered that you don't believe anyone who tells you it can stop.

I know that more women are murdered by their intimate partners when the woman is leaving the relationship than any other time.

I know that kids who are abused, or raised in an abusive home are more likely to be abusers themselves.

I know that cops don't like DV calls, and frankly I can't blame them-- but arresting the aggressor for the night gives that much needed paper trail, and sometimes enough time for the other partner to run like hell.

I know, that in 2013 we should be past this display of machismo, the beating of our wives... but we're not-- because too many men equate hurting someone with real power, and society has given them this definition of "being a man" for too long.

So, what can we do about it?

Well, first off, if you're being abused, call the Hotline, or go to their website. They can help. 1−800−799−SAFE(7233).

Secondly, you can send money to your local shelters. That's the number one concern for most people escaping DV: finding a safe place to sleep. Call them, find out what they need, and drop it off.

Volunteer at said DV shelters, if you have time. This is hard, heartbreaking work, but so vital for the protection of these victims, and their kids.

You can lobby your elected reps, and push for the updated VAWA. The new Violence Against Women Act needs to pass-- now! However, the House is holding it up, again. Thank you, old, white Republicans... you're all assholes.

If you have a friend or loved one who is in a DV situation, there are a couple things you can do to help-- rather than further isolate the victim. This is a fine line, you see, and having been on both sides, I never want anyone else to make those mistakes.

Never ask why they're staying, and never demand that they leave. Just tell them you're worried about them, and let them know you're there-- always. Maybe you can let them start to secret clothes and such at your house, documents like their birth certificates, and their kid's SSN cards are necessary later, and some times hard to replace.

Don't castigate them for loving their abuser. Love is never wrong, some times it's just blinder than an eye-less fish. Let them know you understand that they love their partner, but you love them, and want them to be safe.

Be ready to help, in the middle of the night. Any time of day. Be ready and willing, because the time to slip away and escape can come when it's least convenient for you-- but you're a friend, you love this person, and you will want to help them.

Don't antagonise the abuser. Don't let them walk all over you, or abuse you, too, though. You can be yourself, and not "start shit"... this is to protect your friend, you don't want them to be forbidden from talking to you, or punished later for your actions. Both of these are distinct possibilities.

If your friend is raped, be there. Don't ask what they were wearing, if they were drinking, did they fight back. Never say that it might not have been rape, exactly. Urge them to get medical care, to press charges, to get counselling. Urge them to see the charges through, and stand with them as they're ramrodded by the justice system. Never denigrate them, though, and never blame them. You can be raped by your spouse, your lover, your friend, and a stranger... guess which kind are most common? Not the stranger ones, that's for sure.

Finally, don't say, "Oh, but he's such a nice guy!" if your friend tells you she's being harmed. If you're shocked, then let your eyes go wide, let your mouth stop making words, but never, never tell your friend how nice their partner is, because then you're telling them they're lying. Nice guys beat women. Nice women beat women. Nice guys beat man, and Nice women beat them too. DV is about power, and anger, and anyone can be the target, no matter how lovely, kind and perfectly reasonable the perpetrator seems to be, in other circumstances. When your friend is brave enough to admit it, help them-- even if you really like their intimate partner, remember that you love your friend more.

Together we can stamp out DV. We can fight back, and beat it. Together we can teach our kids that it's never OK to hit each other, to harm. Together we can punish those who would hurt others, who let their anger and thirst for power-- thirst to be a real man-- push them to strangle, beat, slap, rape, kill. Together, we can do this.

We just have to be brave enough to admit that it still happens. And to demand it stop.

Demand. Not ask nicely. DEMAND!

Today is St. Valentine's Day.
I DEMAND an end to violence. Me, and a billion others. And you know what, we're going to get it!

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