5th Annual Joyful Revolution Gala
Rise Up for Children and Teens
On Wednesday evening, May 9, 2012, the Joyful Heart Foundation staff, Board of Directors and hundreds of supporters gathered in downtown New York for the Fifth Annual Joyful Revolution Gala. And joyful it was. From the moment guests stepped into the vast space of Cipriani Wall Street from the dreary rain, joy was everywhere. It was in the voices of the choir full of young people whose powerful voices filled the room. It was in the stories of the young students who spoke up about how they do their part to turn towards these issues by speaking up, volunteering and rallying their classmates, teachers and school administrators to do the same. It was in stories of those who spoke of Joyful Heart's work, like the groundbreaking One Strong 'Ohana campaign to prevent child abuse and neglect in Hawai'i, or NO MORE, a movement to end domestic violence and sexual assault. It was in the two pioneering honorees of the evening, Jane Randel and Grace Brown. Jane Randel recognized the importance of addressing teen dating violence and led her company, Liz Claiborne Inc., in funding prevention programs and overseeing the revolutionary Love Is Not Abuse program. Grace Brown, at just 19 years old, is turning the tables of sexual assault upside-down, helping survivors take back the power stolen from them during their abuse and showing it to the world through photography in Project Unbreakable.
This joy was so palpable because the faces of those who are working so passionately for a world free from violence filled the room, personifying our hope for a safer world, a more supportive world, a better world. And that's what and who we were celebrating at our Joyful Revolution: those who Rise Up for Children and Teens.
Jane, you and I have never met. And yet we are deeply connected, through your work, and through my gratitude for it.
When I was seventeen, everyone said my boyfriend, Juan, and I were "the ideal couple." And we were, until he became controlling, jealous and eventually physically abusive. When I finally broke up with him, a few hours later, in the middle of the night, he snuck into my bedroom and raped me at knife point.
He was arrested. But the judge ruled that Juan didn't pose a serious threat to the community, so he was released. Thirteen days later, while I was sitting in a car in my grandparents' driveway, he shot me in the face with a shotgun.
Love is not abuse. A lot of young women do not know that. A lot of young men do not know that. I, myself, wish I had known it. But Jane, you and Liz Claiborne have known it for years.
Jane pointed to the sustained, thoughtful work of so many that have made this possible:
I used to think of this work in terms of "moving the needle" of awareness…I used to believe it would be the events that shake us—Rihanna, Nicole Brown Simpson, Yeardley Love, the gang rape of a 15-year-old student outside her homecoming dance in Richmond, CA. But it's not. Unfortunately, we react in the moment, but we are swept to the next event as the news cycle continues.
In fact, it is people like you and me, deciding to be the person who raises the issue at our companies, at our schools, in our families, in our places of worship, in our daily conversations.
We then heard from some of those people, who took the stage to talk about our collective accomplishments in turning towards the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. Kym Worthy spoke first. She is the fearless Wayne County District Attorney who oversees some 70,000 prosecutions each year—25,000 of them felonies and among them, thousands of rapes. She discussed the backlog of over 11,000 "recklessly abandoned" rape kits in her jurisdiction. "Last year, at this event Joyful Heart's CEO, Maile Zambuto said, 'Detroit, we will not forget you.' And I am here to say that she kept her promise."
Prosecutor Worthy was followed by Law & Order: SVU star Danny Pino, who spoke about the very first episode he filmed as a new cast member. The episode was called “Personal Fouls” and it told the story of a respected basketball coach who is accused of sexually abusing the boys on his team. It aired a month before Penn State, Syracuse and Poly Prep. Joyful Heart filmed a PSA with the cast and guest stars that day, which happened to be Danny’s first day on the set. Danny read through the lines of the PSA that day, his jaw dropping and eyes widening as he learned that 19 million American men are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. He remembers too. “As a father of two young boys, and as a man, I’m proud to say: consider me engaged.”
Joyful Heart Board Member, Valli Kalei Kanuha, Ph.D., then spoke about the groundbreaking One Strong 'Ohana campaign, a strengths-based campaign focused on what we can all do to prevent child abuse before it starts. She said:
Our premise is simple: rather than wait for something to go wrong, do something right, something as basic as running an errand for an overstressed caretaker or offering to watch your neighbors' kids so they can have a little break. One Strong 'Ohana is the first campaign of its kind to focus on what we can do before things go wrong in our families. We're confident that this initiative will spare thousands of our children the pain of abuse and neglect. For many, it could save their lives.
And then Chauncey Parker, also of Joyful Heart's Board of Directors and Executive Assistant District Attorney for the Manhattan DA's Crime Strategies Unit, spoke about the historic all-crimes DNA law in New York, a law that Joyful Heart has advocated for during the past two legislative sessions. The new law will help countless families be spared of the pain and trauma of violence and bring healing and justice to countless more.
As Maile said in her introduction to Grace:
My perpetrator's words are the deepest, most insidious part of my abuse. I wrote them down, I read them, I saw them in black and white on the paper. And I saw them reflected in the looks on the faces of people in the street that day.
For the first time, I got those words off of me and out of me. It loosened my grip on the lie—the lie that somehow all of this was my fault, that somehow, at five years old, I caused it.
I held that sign, I bore its weight and I walked away lighter.
Grace's images remind us of the profound shame and isolation that survivors carry with them. And how so often, they carry that weight alone. But by joining together as a community, by turning our attention, resources and passion to ending-yes, ending-sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, that weight becomes lighter. The shame and the isolation can lift. Mariska said it best:
Our issues are heavy because they are very complex, because they involve pain, fear, darkness, isolation, judgment, ignorance and an entrenched lack of understanding. They are heavy because people's lives are at stake. But together, they're not too much to carry. I swear. That, I do know.
Day-in and day-out, there are adults and teenagers who simply have a voice, an idea, a camera, creativity, determination, a caring embrace or an attentive ear who make a difference daily to the people in their lives. We talk about changing the world, which seems like a dauntingly ambitious endeavor. But we each have our part to play, our own corner world in which we can make a difference—our own life paths, the places we live and work, the people we care about, those we pass on the street or see daily on our Facebook and Twitter accounts. And if each of us works to change just one thing about it, and then another thing, and then another, we can chip away at this seemingly overwhelming endeavor. The weight becomes lighter and lighter. And that's how we do it. That's how we change the world.
So please, consider these ways to help carry the weight:
- Download educational materials from 1in6. We made these available in print to each guest at our gala and urged them to take them home, share them with friends and family, co-workers, their community center or school. 1in6 and Joyful Heart have partnered together as part of our Engaging Men initiative to make these available in print to those that would like them. Should you wish to make an order, you can request these materials in print at no charge for orders under 25 pieces.
- Run, walk, swim, play, pole jump, ride horses or participate in your favorite activity as part of the Joyful Revolution Athletic Club. Instead of donating funds yourself, this is a great way raise money for the Joyful Heart Foundation while raising awareness among your community. Of course, it's also a great way to achieve your own personal wellness goals.
- Say NO MORE. Join a movement that says NO MORE to domestic violence and sexual assault. You can start by posting your picture to the NO MORE photo gallery and visiting the ShopNOMORE store.
- Donate, if you have the means, to our general fund or our work to end the backlog of untested rape kits. Each and every dollar makes a difference.
- Download the Love Is Not Abuse app to your iPhone. This app provides invaluable resources to parents on teen dating violence, including a digital dating abuse simulator that demonstrates the shocking number of ways to technology can be used to exert control over someone.
Lastly, continue to talk about the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. We all have to carry our weight. Together, it makes a difference.