Wednesday, February 20, 2013

One Billion Rising in Second Life: How Effective Was It?

Apparently an event took place recently that was devoted to dancing in hopes of raising awareness of the one billion human beings on the planet, mostly women and children, who suffer daily violence including rape.  It was called, "One Billion Rising", and it was blogged about on New World Notes, where Hamlet Au quoted critics and supporters alike.

The main issue critics have is the effectiveness of such an event.  It sought no donations, and I heard little or nothing about it through SL or the groups I'm in that frequently become involved in charity drives, which leads me to question just how important the event's organizers or Linden Lab think the issue of violence against women and children is given the lack of information-sharing.  As a survivor of physical and emotional abuse, I would like to have known about an event that seeks to both raise awareness of the problem and, most importantly, find solutions.

That seems to be the basis of the detractors' criticisms.  What was actually done to raise awareness of the issue?  We know that roughly one billion human beings — one seventh of the total estimated population — go through each day being beaten, raped, killed, or facing some other kind of violence, be it physical, mental, or emotional.  Most of the violence is carried out against humanity's most vulnerable members: women and children.  Okay, that's important information we need to know: how widespread is the problem and whom does it affect the most?

Missing from the event was any real discussion as to what can and should be done to end the violence.  Other than throwing a big in-world dance party (the event took place across four connected regions), what did the organizers really accomplish?  What did they really hope to accomplish?  Answers to these and other questions don't appear to be forthcoming.

I don't doubt the sincerity or the good intentions of OBR's organizers.  What I question is their effectiveness and the way they are going about their stated mission.  It's all well and good to gather survivors in one place to provide each other with much needed emotional support.  But more than that is needed if we as a species are to find ways to end violence against each other, to break the endless cycles and save lives.

Some things that can be done to make future events more effective include, but are not limited to:

  1. First figure out exactly what, besides throwing a big in-world party, organizers hope to accomplish.  Is the purpose to educate people?  What information can be provided to raise awareness not only of the nature and scope of the problem, but solutions?
  2. Plan out well in advance how many people organizers wish to reach and prepare ahead of time — at least a year.  The IFT Sci-Fi Alliance begins planning for its Relay For Life fund-raising activities as soon as the previous event ends.  It's a year-round crusade and there are no holidays.  Events are planned and, most importantly, hyped for months prior to the start of RFL activities.  Tens of thousands of SL residents learn about RFL-related events months before things start happening.  OBR could take a few pages out of the RFL playbook on this one.
  3. Is there any fund-raising apparatus in place to send money to non-profit organizations that seek to assist victims of violence in escaping their situations to better, violence-free lives, such as RAINN?  If not, shouldn't there be one?  If so, what accountability measures are in place to ensure that funds are actually going to organizations that are working to help end the violence?  RAINN and similar organizations may have a presence in SL, and if they don't, it would be very good to reach out to their members in-world to work out some kind of arrangement, like RFL and the American Cancer Society have with their donation kiosks.
  4. Generating mass discussions among abuse survivors can go a long way toward helping.  People who've found ways to escape could share their stories, thus inspiring and informing others who haven't been so lucky to get the help they need to empower themselves and get away from the violence.

These and other steps should be taken to ensure that future OBR events are more successful in achieving their goals.  It's a worthy cause, one worth devoting time, effort, and money to.  Let's work to make the cause an effective one.

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