“Until the Violence Stops” Prompts Reflection and Dialogue

Come, days without violence!

Come, days without violence!

A group of LPTS students and staff met Tuesday in the basement of Schlegel Hall to watch the documentary film “Until the Violence Stops,” as part of the observance of V is for Venite.

The film dramatizes the experiences of five diverse communities around the work of V-Day — an international movement to end violence against women and girls — and in the process gives some of the background on the connections between Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues and the V-Day movement. As the film notes, the dramatic form of live theatre helps concretize, make more vivid, and bring home the multi-dimensional meaning of violence against women, and the need to end it, in ways that talk or literature simply doesn’t.

The same could be said about the film. In its images of participants in performances around the world, in the testimonies and faces of individual survivors, the audience sees the face of violence against women — what it means in the lives of these women reminding, standing for, the much larger (almost overwhelmingly) reality.

It’s difficult to talk after seeing this film, especially for the first time. The enormity and variety of what needs to be faced, faced down, and brought to an end can leave a person speechless. The depth of pain and suffering, barely touched, can leave a person feeling completely overwhelmed. LPTS Dean of Students Kilen Gray noted one response to the film as a wish to share the understanding the film provides with a congregation in as dramatic, vivid and powerful way as possible. As others noted, bringing the reality, emotions, needs, and calls around violence against women into the life of worship is both particularly necessary, and particularly difficult. It meets the resistance of worship committees, maybe because people feel themselves incapable of doing or saying “the right thing.”

And yet, it’s clear that silence is not “the right thing.” As Gray also noted, it’s the atmosphere of taboo that surrounds every form of violence against women that permits it to go on, to thrive. Breaking that silence, naming violence as wrong, already constitutes support for women who have endured violence and a needed call to confession, repentance and (one hopes) healing for perpetrators. Breaking the silence also begins the needed change in the systems — which tragically include the church and its institutions — that enable and perpetuate violence.

At least one thing is clear: the church needs to be present and active not only in calling for an end to violence against women and girls, but in working for that end.

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3 thoughts on ““Until the Violence Stops” Prompts Reflection and Dialogue

  1. I’m personally saddened to see the Women’s Center sponsoring this play. In a notorious section, “The Little Coochi Snorcher that Could,” a woman recounts how as a 13 yr old girl she is given alcohol and then seduced by a 24 yr old woman. In the original form (which has been unsatisfactorily redacted to omit it and change the age from 13 to 16), she dismisses the substance abuse and statutory violation by saying: “Now people say it was a kind of rape…. Well, I say if it was rape, it was a good rape….” In another segment, a six year old is queried about her genitalia (smells, names, etc.). As the father of beautiful little girl, I would be hard pressed to stay in my seat through such a performance.

    The rest of the play wavers between diatribes against men and male-female sex as inherently violent, or about sexual practices that really deserve to stay in the bedroom. How this play actually addresses violence against women (especially when it is celebrated in the above scene), or opens frank conversations about the role men – and women – have in the sexualization of children and women (objectification is a prologue to rape and oppression) is perhaps beyond the scope of Wimminwise to answer. But it would be helpful to reflect on why this play at this seminary – of all the venues and content available – is appropriate and effective.

    Fr. Chris Larimer, MDiv `06

  2. The numerous events of the week, which we’ve dubbed “V is for Venite,” constitute an extended reflection on “why this play at this seminary;” the play itself (both published and performed) offers an opportunity to readers and audience members to gauge the aptness of Fr. Larimer’s characterization of its content.

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