V-Day 2013

I get asked a lot if I like my job. I always reply with an emphatic “Yes!”

Once in awhile we all have experiences on our jobs that make us feel good. Because of the nature of what I do I am really lucky to have a gig that makes me feel that way a lot.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. For us guys that generally means an excuse to get our wife or girlfriend flowers or candy or both. Valentine’s Day is also a great opportunity to share your emotions with her, which she loves.

For women, Valentine’s Day is very important. This annual tradition recognizes her as the beauty that she is. We validate the importance of her existence in our lives. We remind her that we cannot live without her (or at least we admit we would be a mess without her).

Yesterday was also V-Day. What is V-Day and why is it significant? It gives women (and men by supporting women) an opportunity to stake a claim and have their voice heard. (http://www.vday.org/about)

In 1994, a play called The Vagina Monologues, was written by playwright and activist Eve Ensler. This ground breaking piece of political theater offered the world a piece of art like nothing it had seen before. Based on dozens of interviews Ensler conducted with women, the play addressed women’s sexuality and the social stigma surrounding rape and abuse.

Today, V-Day is a global activist movement that supports anti-violence organizations throughout the world, helping them to continue and expand their core work on the ground, while drawing public attention to the larger fight to stop worldwide violence (including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), sex slavery) against women and girls.

V-Day exists for no other reason than to stop violence against women. (http://www.vday.org/about)

One Billion Rising cites that one in three women and girls on the planet are raped or beaten in her lifetime. (http://www.onebillionrising.org)

On the 15th Anniversary of V-Day, a goal was set to have one billion women and those who love them participate in events to walk out, DANCE, RISE UP, AND DEMAND an end to this violence. One Billion Rising is a promise that we will rise up with women and men worldwide to say, “Enough! The violence ends now.” One Billion Rising asked every community to coordinate a Break The Chain event where local women (and men) could gather to RISE UP.

The Charlotte effort was lead by Brandy Stephens with Safe Alliance in partnership with the Mecklenburg County Women’s Commission (that’s where I come in). Brandy and Barbara Patterson lead the charge getting coaches, sound equipment and motivating their folks to come out and be one of those one billion women to rise. I helped by securing the location, Freedom Park, and getting the word out through email and social media besides just being a general support.

I work a lot with Safe Alliance (http://www.SafeAlliance.org) and other domestic violence service providers and advocates in efforts like this to raise the banner of “zero tolerance for violence against women and girls.” For me, any way we can get a life line out to a victim in the form of resources is a good thing. So many victims are held captive in their own home while being fed the lie that they are all alone and no one really cares about them. Well, I’m here to tell you that we are ALL here to help.

In the United States, we know that 95% of the reported cases of domestic violence or “intimate partner violence” it is men that are beating their wives or their girlfriends. (What is Domestic Violence? http://bit.ly/ovwvdn)

Did you know that on average; almost 500 women a day are raped or sexually assaulted in the United States. In other parts of the world it is much higher. For example, India reports one rape every 18 minutes.

From my perspective, we can save victims from their abusers all day long getting them to shelters or services. But if we do not address the men that are perpetrating these crimes we just promote another victim by letting him move on to another relationship.

Our problem men, becomes a need to learn how to speak up for ALL women and girls by calling out our brothers when they are inappropriate instead of ignoring it. Our silence is just as deadly because it condones their actions.

There is a myth out there that all men are the problem. If you account for our silence that may be in the neighborhood of the truth, but in reality it is closer to 20 to 35%; depending on who you listen to. What that tells me is that at least two out of three guys are not abusing their wives and girlfriends. We need to help those two men gain their voice as well. On a promising note, there is tangible evidence that more men are stepping up to the plate. That’s good.

Yesterday for me was awesome from a couple of fronts. One, I felt I was in my element.

Do you ever feel like you are right where you are supposed to be? So often I feel that God has placed me right in the middle of this issue supporting all women to simply bring a male’s voice to the table. It felt great yesterday to support those women and be able to apologize to them for all of the abuse they may have experienced at the hands of the men in their lives. (Not taking the blame for their abuse, but simply representing the two out of three that don’t abuse)

BTC Charlotte Yesterday I discovered that another role for me is to share my story. This is a challenge because it requires me to be vulnerable. That is not a very comfortable place for a lot of men. Looking back though, I can now see how God has personally exposed me to different types of abuse which has instilled the compassion that I now I feel for all victims.

I grew up in a very large family of eleven kids. Seven of them are sisters so I learned how to stand in line for the bathroom pretty early.

When I was ten, one of my sisters was 13 and in the 7th grade. She was coming into her own and getting out in her new Junior High School world. Her natural beauty radiated an air of sensuousness around her.

My parents were connected with the local Catholic diocese and invited a maintenance guy from the Catholic University to our house to help with a couple of projects needing repair. While he was working at our home he found an opportunity to take some liberties with my sister and clearly took advantage.

This was frightening for her and very confusing. Due to my parents’ inability to speak with their children about sex in a healthy way, they responded completely off base causing her even greater confusion. Instead of taking this guy out back and beating him within an inch of his life, they blamed my sister for being “too promiscuous” saying she brought it on herself. WOW!

How often do we hear examples of this still today? It seems constantly that victims are being re-victimized by the system with the burden of proof being placed on them instead of holding the abuser accountable for their actions. In like fashion, my dad did not have a clue how to hold this guy accountable so he didn’t confront him. It was easier for dad to react unjustly to my sister because her sensuality represented something or someone that scared him.
rebecca-schaeffer Twenty years later, another glimpse of abuse came when I was working in the TV and Film industry in the form of stalking. My very first job at Warner Bros. in Burbank, CA was as a Production Assistant on a show called My Sister Sam. It was a sitcom starring Pam Dawber and Rebecca Schaeffer as her kid sister. The show only ran for two seasons.

Shortly after the series was canceled, Rebecca Schaeffer became a spokesperson for Thursday’s Child, a charity for at-risk teens. Later that year her stalker appeared at her door posed as a flower delivery driver. Twenty minutes after signing an autograph for him she abruptly told him she was busy. He took it as a personal affront and pulled a gun from a brown bag he was carrying and shot her in the chest. She died on the pavement in front of her new Hollywood apartment. It became apparent later that her killer had been stalking her since the inception of the show in 1986. Tragic!

All of us (men and women) need to address abuse in hopes of turning the tide of violence against women and girls. Will you help?

Please consider getting involved in your local communities. There are programs and service providers helping victims in shelters, court rooms, hospitals, in your neighborhoods, and in their own homes. There are so many forms of abuse that you can help raise awareness of whether it be domestic violence (“intimate partner violence”), sexual abuse, sex trafficking, or exploitation.

If you are one to pray, ask God to reveal where you may be needed. If you don’t know what you are called to do, He will help you figure that out too. If you think I can help you get connected somewhere, somehow then please send me a message on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/MikeSextonNC or send me an email to Michael.Sexton@MecklenburgCountyNC.gov.

If you are being abused in your relationship please call for help. The abuse does not have to be physical to be criminal. It always starts with verbal and emotional abuse. Please find out what you can do to protect yourself and get to a place of safety in case it gets real dangerous.

HOTLINES: The National Hotline is 800-799-SAFE (7233). They can connect you with services anywhere in the country. In Charlotte call the Shelter For Battered Women 24-hour hotline at 704-332-2513.

The Women’s Commission can help you with understanding what you are dealing with, assess how lethal your situation may be, and help you set up a safety plan. You can reach them Monday through Friday, 8AM to 5PM at 704-336-3210.

For me, God’s greatest command on our lives is to love one another. When wearing those lenses the answer to this issue is an understanding that we are here to lift each other up. It is not about tearing each other down so we feel better about ourselves. In the simplest terms, that means we are here to help each other.

God has shown me that when I am stepping out in faith with Him, I cannot lose. With His guidance and protection, and my obedience to what He is asking me to do, He insures me that I am right where He needs me to be.

With that focus every encounter has a purpose. Every conversation is a divine appointment and that always makes me feel good.

For me, this gig is more than a job. It is my calling.