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A Modern V-Day Miracle

Originally published in:
Chicago Sun-Times

By Cindy Richards

T-shirt that reads: "If RAPE is Sexual then KILLING with a KNIFE
is just COOKING."

A "Dating Certificate" that boys can earn by attending a
three-part anti-rape program, one for boys in
kindergarten-through-third grade, the second for fourth-to
sixth-graders and the third for seventh-through-ninth- graders.

A poster that hangs in tavern bathrooms and proclaims: "Vodka is
Not a Lubricant."

Each of those ideas, along with scores of others, was submitted in
last year's International Stop Rape Contest. Friday is the deadline
for this year's contest, an annual event sponsored by V-Day, an
international organization founded by Eve Ensler, the monologist who
made vagina a household word. Winning ideas will get up to $25,000 in
funding to implement their ideas.

Ensler, whose popular "Vagina Monologues" leaves its audiences in
tears--sometimes from laughter, sometimes from shock, sometimes from
horror--uses a portion of the proceeds from ticket prices to fund
V-Day. The organization has raised some $7 million in just five short

"It's been a vagina miracle," said the playwright-activist. "When
something is necessary, there is a certain kind of energy that isn't
like anything else. This has an urgency and mysterious quality that I
find amazing."

The outpouring of money, time and ideas is, indeed, amazing,
considering the staggering statistics. Worldwide, one in three women
has been raped or sexually abused, according to a United Nations
report. In America, one in six women has been the victim of a sexual
assault or attempted sexual assault, according to the Centers for
Disease Control. Put another way, the Justice Department says that a
woman is raped every 90 seconds somewhere in America. Half of those
female victims will be under 18; one in six will be under age 12.

Despite the overwhelming statistics that would suggest victory is
impossible, V-Day has grown exponentially, from an underground
feminist event to a mainstream media one. Benefit performances of the
"Vagina Monologues" are being scheduled around the world in
connection with Valentine's Day 2002 (the V in V-Day stands for
several things, organizers say, including Victory over Violence,
Valentine's and, of course, Vagina).

Already, Ensler said, the show is set to be performed at more than
600 college campuses and in nearly 200 cities around the
world--Iceland signed up on Monday--with all the proceeds going to a
local violence prevention or anti-rape program. In Chicago, 13
campuses, from Northwestern University to Joliet Junior College, have
signed on to the grass roots effort so far.

Beyond the performance of Ensler's moving monologues is the
worldwide effort to fund and showcase ideas for stopping rape.

The international Stop Rape contest is open only to women and
girls, but a second contest started this year allows both male and
female college students to submit ideas for stemming violence against
women. The college Stop Rape contest offers winners up to $5,000 to
implement their ideas. Deadline for entries in the college contest is
Dec. 15.

Entries have been slow in coming in the wake of Sept. 11, Ensler
said. But there may be an even bigger reason that there aren't more
ideas forthcoming.

"One of the greatest hurdles we have to overcome is that people
don't think it's possible," Ensler said. "They can't even imagine a
world without rape."

That's one reason the Stop Rape idea submitted last year by
28-year-old Silke Pilliger of Germany is one of Ensler's favorites.
Pilliger suggested printing anti-rape slogans on bread wrappers. One
of her slogans tells bread buyers: "One German woman in two suffers
from headaches, one in three has problems backing into a parking
space and one in five is raped by her partner,"

"I love it because it's so basic," she said. "You get your bread
in the morning and it says 'Have you raped your wife today?' You get
that [rape] is ordinary. We have to make it extraordinary."