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More `Vagina Warriors' Needed to Help End Abuse

Originally published in:
Charleston Gazette (Charleston, West Virginia)

Marsha Ibos
"What exactly is a `Vagina Warrior'?" John Johnson asked when approached with the news that he had been selected to be a "Vagina Warrior" to recognize the work he does to help keep women safe from their abusers. John is the facilitator for the YWCA Resolve Family Abuse Program's Perpetrator Intervention Program - a 32 week educational program, often court-ordered, that attempts to teach perpetrators to be accountable and accept responsibility for their abusive behavior.

The committee wanted to recognize John's courage as a facilitator for these group sessions for batterers, which have the goal of reducing the violence toward the women in their lives. It also hopes that bringing attention to John's willingness to work in the field of domestic violence will encourage other men to take a proactive role in this challenging field. In these weekly group sessions, John has exhibited a great deal of courage in confronting male perpetrators about how they minimize, trivialize and make excuses for their violent relationships with loved ones.

John's philosophy is "Anything that can be learned can be unlearned," and his stellar work with the RFAP's Perpetrator Intervention Program was the impetus for the award of "Vagina Warrior." The organizers of the international "V-Day movement sparked by "The Vagina Monologues," Eve Ensler's Obie-award winning play, has encouraged the communities presenting the play to select outstanding persons to recognize as "Warriors."

Through V-Day campaigns throughout the world, local volunteers produce annual benefit performances to raise awareness and funds for their community's anti-violence groups. Now translated into 35 languages, "The Vagina Monologues" continues to be the highlight of an international movement that educates millions about the cruelties against women and girls throughout the world.

"The Vagina Monologues" and V-Day celebrations also serve as a venue for creative events to bring attention to existing local anti-violence organizations, such as the YWCA's Resolve Family Abuse Program (RFAP) and the Family Service of Kanawha Valley REACH (Rape, Education, Awareness, Counseling and Healing) Program. These programs will share the proceeds from "The Vagina Monologues" performances at 7:30 p.m. today and Tuesday at the West Virginia State University Capitol Center Theater, at 123 Summers Street, Charleston.

Social services agencies such as RFAP and REACH use the V-Day celebrations in the spring to ask our communities to focus on what each of us can do to stop violence against women and girls. We are grateful for the many volunteers and contributors who are making this event a success and for the many courageous warriors, such as John Johnson, who help us as we strive to end violence against women and girls every day of the year.

Marsha Ibos is the director of the YWCA Resolve Family Abuse Program.