V-Day aims to increase awareness of violence

After winning the WIAC and placing fourth in the NCAA Div. III National Tournament in 2000, the Blugolds finished fourth in the five-team WIAC West Division last season. But the Blugolds are optimistic they’ll return to their glory days this season. With 12 returning letter winners, a solid core of seniors and a determined new coach, the team appears to have the right recipe for success.

Story by Tuesday Wustrack

One out of three women around the world will be sexually or physically abused in her life, according to the V-Day website.

In an attempt to change the number of abuse victims and make a positive difference in her community, playwright and activist Eve Ensler founded the V-Day Campaign in New York in 1998. Now, 14 years later, V-Day has expanded to groups in 140 countries all around the world that aim to stop violence against women.

One of those groups resides right here at UW-Eau Claire.

“We do a lot to raise awareness and try to gain funds so the global organization has enough money,” said Jena Skalisky, co-president of the Eau Claire chapter of V-Day.

The ‘V’ in V-Day stands for victory, valentine and vagina. When violence against women is finally abolished, Valentine’s Day will be the day to celebrate.

The group organizes and participates in activities for students and community members to learn about violence against women. V-Day offers the proceeds from these activities to collaborating organizations, such as the Bolton Refuge House, the Center for Awareness of Sexual Assault and Men Opposed to Sexual Violence, Skalisky said.

The most popular program they offer is “The Vagina Monologues,” a play written by Ensler that addresses women’s sexuality, rape and abuse. It is coming up this month, with performances  Feb. 23-25.

Apart from the play, V-Day held a Knit-A-Thon last semester, in which volunteers knitted blankets on campus to donate to women’s charities like the Bolton Refuge House and CASA. Skalisky said V-Day made a couple hundred dollars from the Knit-A-Thon.

The group organizes other programs such as another play called “A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and a Prayer” and  hopes to organize a marathon run in the spring.

When members of V-Day are not working on their own awareness and fundraising programs, they continue to volunteer in other ways.

“The Vagina Monologues” director and member of the V-Day Campaign  Brianna Mueller has volunteered at CASA’s Clothesline Project. People affected by sexual abuse decorated and wrote on t-shirts to portray the emotions that come with different types of victims and assault. They hung the shirts up on a clothesline to display them.

“There’s child abuse, there’s male victims, different things like that,” she said. “It’s a story-sharing project.”

Another member of V-Day, Volunteer Coordinator Bryce McClung, said he and others in the organization help out in any way they can.

“We work with the Women’s and LGBTQ Resource Center to just collaborate in ways that we feel we can achieve something legitimate,” he said.

While the Women’s and LGBTQ Resource Center organize the Fire Ball,  a drag queen show that raises funds for LGBTQ scholarships, members of V-Day attend to support the cause, which he said is just as important.

Aside from community and campus projects, members of the V-Day Campaign work towards ending violence against women at their weekly meetings.

“It’s a really open forum for any ideas, any expression that you want to put forth, or an issue that you think pertains to V-Day or domestic abuse,” McClung said.

The group also builds strong relationships with each other through group bonding activities.

“It’s easy to get to know people,” he said. “I know more about a lot of those members in the one meeting where we did all ice-breakers than I do all other organizations that I’ve participated in for years.”

Skalisky said that the activies and events the group puts on are a lot of fun. Eau Claire’s V-Day Campaign is expanding, making the meetings more interesting and providing more opportunities to learn about violence and women.

“It is nice because now we have some guys in the group,” she said.

While women are still the majority in the group, men are encouraged to join. V-Day is an opportunity for men to learn and contribute from different points-of-view.

“It’s a big step, and I’m happy to feel as welcome as I am,” McClung said.

The V-Day Campaign is always in need of new members, said Mueller.

“There’s power in numbers for the movement,” she said. “We need people to stand against this; that’s what V-Day is all about.”

To get involved in the V-Day Campaign, anyone is welcome at the meetings at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays in the Wisconsin or Arrowhead rooms in Davies Center.