I challenge anyone to watch the upcoming Lifetime special Until the Violence Stops and not become galvanized to perform some kind of action to join the work done by women of all cultures to stop crimes against the gender.
The documentary, directed by Abby Epstein, is as cinematically beautiful as its topic is horrible. Beginning at the turn of the millennium, women's groups — inspired by Eve Ensler's play The Vagina Monologues— began holding annual events on what they termed V-day to rally support for ending violence against women, and boosting education about that issue. The program documents some of the programs in segments that reflect the communities from which these voices rise.
Without being didactic, the film demonstrates the sisterhood of victims, whether they are movie stars in Harlem, a teenage girl in Rift Valley, Kenya, fleeing the prospect of genital mutilation, or a middle-aged quilter in California, healing from childhood wounds inflicted by a rapist.
One views each segment, thinking that was the strongest, only to have it topped by the lesson taught and the heart exposed in the next. Director Singer doesn't let opportunities for humor escape, to leaven the message. In advance of a Monologues V-day event in rural Ukiah, the filmmakers take their cameras out and interview a crew of linemen, asking them if they'd be interested in a play about vaginas.
That segues into a discussion of community reaction to a group of sewing aficionados who created "vagina quilts" for display around town. One reported that they toured store-window displays to find groups with flashlights secretly checking out the artwork under cover of darkness.
Viewers' hearts will no doubt go out to each group, from the women prostituted as children for the "comfort" of enemy soldiers, now speaking out in the Philippines, to American Indians describing their past as abusers or the abused. Tears may flow when writer Ensler visits the sanctuary for girls established in Kenya that has been financially supported by the V-day events. After watching the segment describing exactly what they do to girls, and the familial rejection the children withstand to rescue themselves, one's personal freedom and safety won't be taken for granted ever again.
Lifetime will air this documentary on Feb. 17 at 10 p.m. as it launches its 2004 campaign against violence against women. Watch the documentary, but also (and just as importantly) heed the call to action.