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One Billion Rising raises awareness on Valentine’s Day

Celebrating life and new beginnings, La Verne counselors Sarah Leclerc and Nicole Kezos helped guests pot their flowers at One Billion Rising, an event to raise awareness and promote justice for violence against women. Kaitlin Wilson, a sophomore athletic training major, Alicia Rodriguez, a freshman music major and Jacqueline Gaeta, an I-Poly High School Student and Denim Day volunteer wrote positive words and sayings on their flower pots. / photo by Katie Madden

Celebrating life and new beginnings, La Verne counselors Sarah Leclerc and Nicole Kezos helped guests pot their flowers at One Billion Rising, an event to raise awareness and promote justice for violence against women. Kaitlin Wilson, a sophomore athletic training major, Alicia Rodriguez, a freshman music major and Jacqueline Gaeta, an I-Poly High School Student and Denim Day volunteer wrote positive words and sayings on their flower pots. / photo by Katie Madden

Amanda Larsh
Assistant News Editor

The University partnered with the One in Three club, House of Ruth and Project Sister to host the One Billion Rising campaign and event Friday. The Valentine’s Day event was designed to shine a light on the issue of violence against women and highlight the resources and support available to those who have been victims of assault.

One Billion Rising is the global movement that stemmed from the V-Day movement, also held annually on Feb. 14. The event was started by Eve Ensler, the playwright behind “The Vagina Monologues,” to raise awareness of the global problem of violence against women.

“One Billion Rising … actually happens all over the globe, so we thought it was important to have one in La Verne because of One in Three,” said Sandra Maas, senior business administration major and vice president of the club. “The main reason we started the club was so we could spread awareness about these types of issue.”

The club name One in Three, taken from the global campaign with the same name, is based on the statistic that one in three women in the world will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused.

“We thought it was really important to have this day because it’s about rising to justice and claiming back everything for yourself,” Maas said.

“Hopefully … with all the resources we’re going to provide throughout the program, it’ll spark a plug in people to rise and say ‘enough is enough’,” said Lili Gradilla, intercultural project coordinator.

The theme of this year’s event was “What does justice mean to you?” Participants were asked to write or draw what justice was to them on the University’s graffiti board. Victims of abuse were also asked to speak to the crowd about how the theme affected them.

“Last year was the first year (Ensler) thought of the event,” Gradilla said. “This year we’re hoping that more people will participate than last year… It’s a huge issue that not too many people are in tune with.”

Representatives from House of Ruth, a local group that has provided shelter and a safe haven for women and children who have been victims of abuse, were there to raise awareness about the services they have offered for the past 36 years.

“The event gives survivors a chance to stand up for justice in a safe environment,” said Pat Bell, House of Ruth’s development director.

Also participating was Project Sister’s Christina Jimenez, a prevention education specialist, who offered information for those who’d suffered assaults.

“Unfortunately, sexual violence is common. It would be amazing if you went your entire life without knowing someone who had been a victim,” Jimenez said.

Women in higher education have a 20 percent to 25 percent chance of being sexually assaulted over the course of their college careers, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

Sarah Leclerc and Nicole Kezos, representing the University counseling center at the event, offered students the chance to plant flowers as a symbol of an individual’s ability to start fresh after abuse.

They provided literature on how students are able to break the cycle of violence and reminded students that the counseling center is always open.

“I think there are a lot of victims out there who are afraid to speak up, don’t want to speak up, don’t know how to speak up … and are not aware about the resources available to them,” Gradilla said. “Not just the victims … family members who love, who know that this is going on. There’s things that they can do to help them, so we just really want to raise that consciousness.”

Amanda Larsh can be reached at amanda.larsh@laverne.edu.

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