The 2012 Joyful Revolution Gala: A Revolution for the Next Generation
I often find myself in awe, but somehow not totally surprised, that turning towards the issues sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse is often so hopeful, so joyful. Maybe you sometimes find yourself thinking the same. It’s often inexplicable, or at the very least, difficult to put into words as to why this is. And it can certainly be a strange thing to feel—and to write at this very moment—but it’s true. And last Wednesday evening was no exception.
That evening, a dreary, rainy one, 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. But this time, I knew why. This feeling of joy and of hope wasn’t inexplicable, it was right in front of us…all around us. 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 doing something about it before I myself was even a teenager, 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.
Here’s what I’m getting at: 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.
There are so many who do that every day through their unwavering leadership and steadfast support of our work, all of which emanates from our fearless leader, Founder and President of the Joyful Heart Foundation, Mariska Hargitay. There are our incredible supporters who made our Revolution come to life: Gala Chairs Alex Cohen, Lorraine Kirke, Sukey Novogratz and Carrie Shumway; Dinner Hosts Glenn Close, Debra Messing and Hilary Swank; Dinner Chairs Lilly and Danny Pino, George Stephanopoulos and Ali Wentworth, who brought the house down with light and laughter throughout the evening even after being “upstaged” by five fabulous and incredibly brave teens—the voices of the next generation—who commandeered most of her hosting duties. There’s the fearless revolutionaries we know better as the Joyful Heart Board of Directors: Tom Nunan, Linda Fairstein, Stanley Schneider, Michael King, Mark Alexander, Dr. Neal Baer, Andrea Buchanan, Jill Eisenstadt-Chayet, Peter Hermann, Valli Kalei Kanuha, Ph.D, Ashley McDermott, Rev. Al Miles, Heather Mnuchin, Sukey Novogratz, Chauncey Parker, Phil Shawe and Carrie Shumway. Also in attendance were Will Chase, Law & Order Special Victims Unit co-stars Dann Floreck, Kelli Giddish, Stephanie March and Ice-T with Coco, Warren Leight, Gloria Reuben, Sherman and Chris Meloni, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Wayne County District Attorney Kym Worthy and many more.
Yes, it was a truly joyful community. But we were reminded that each of us has to do our part, each of us must carry our weight in this movement. As Mariska said in her remarks:
These are heavy topics. That’s just a fact. And what we are asking you to do—to take them on, really take them on—is hard.
But I want to talk about physics. All of you got a weight when you came here tonight. Each is about a pound. Indulge me here for a moment: pick up your weight and hold in your hand. Do you know what you’re doing right now? You’re lifting five-hundred pounds. How? Together, that’s how. It’s simple physics: the greater the number of people willing to lift, the lighter the load that each individual must carry.
We carry this so that [future generations'] load will be lighter, so that this movement to change the world—that’s right, change the world—will be less of a burden. So that instead of having to start a conversation about these issues within their communities—and families and schools and places of business— they can join one that is already going on.
Following Mariska’s opening remarks, a young woman came up on stage to introduce the evening’s first Heart of Gold Award recipient, Jane Randel. Johanna began:
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’s pioneering leadership to address and prevent teen dating violence have had an enormous impact on Johanna and countless more teens and parents who have learned about dating abuse and sought out help through Love Is Not Abuse, a program of the former Liz Claiborne Inc., now Fifth & Pacific. Love Is Not Abuse was created 20 years ago to generate awareness about domestic violence. Liz Claiborne was the first company ever to take a stand on this issue, commissioning research, implementing pioneering domestic violence workplace policies, creating the Love Is Not Abuse and Love Is Respect programs to offer resources and a safe online community where teens can seek help and a community, and leverage the resources and passion of the thousands in their coalition to pass legislation and get the Love Is Not Abuse curriculum into schools.
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. I myself happened to be on the set that day, helping to film a PSA about this issue that launched our Engaging Men initiative with the cast. I remember Danny reading 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 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.
Chauncey introduced Maile Zambuto, Joyful Heart’s Chief Executive Officer, who took the stage to present the evening’s second Heart of Gold Award to Grace Brown. Grace is the creator of Project Unbreakable, through which she helps survivors in their paths to healing by giving them the last word with the words once used against them during their assaults. She photographs survivors with these words written on a piece of paper.
Take a look [note: this film may be triggering for some]:
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.
So as I finish putting together my thoughts into words, finish meandering through the moments of the evening that were so powerful, so joyful, so hopeful, I’ll say this: what continually inspires me most day-in and day-out are the adults and teenagers who simply have a voice, an idea, a camera, creativity, determination, a caring embrace or an attentive ear to make a difference daily to the people in their lives. We talk about changing the world, which seems like a dauntingly ambitious endeavor. But when I think of “my” world, I think about my own life path, about the places I live and work, the people I care about, those I pass on the street or see daily on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. We each have this world. 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 problem. 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. I’ve tried it myself. Being in my mid-twenties, it wasn’t that long ago that I was in high school. But how the times have changed. The number of ways to exert control over another person digitally are eye-opening and, I might guess, hard for a parent to understand.
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.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Lendon on May 21, 2012 at 6:58 pm, and is filed under Child Abuse and Neglect, Domestic Violence, Engaging Men, From Joyful Heart, Joyful Heart Events, Our Issues, Sexual Assault, Teen Dating Violence. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.|
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