Yesterday there was a One Billion Rising dance party in Second Life, an official part of the larger real world movement raising awareness of violence against women, an absolutely worthy cause. Because the event description didn't mention anything about, say, raising donations for real world violence prevention organizations, or creating in-world support groups for victims, I didn't quite understand the overall purpose. That's absolutely not the fault of the SL organizers, because far as I can tell, the RL event is also described mainly or solely as a dance party. (See screengrab above.) In any case, the event's raised some controversy, perhaps best expressed by Chestnut Rau, and also Whiskey Day, who says this:
As a survivor of sexual violence I’m insulted, not comforted, by the image of women dancing to demand an end to violence. Demand an end by addressing the very root causes of violence against women or gender based violence and rape in any form. But that’s not a pretty picture, nor a nice PR package. And dancing for 20 minutes today doesn’t help me rise above the sexual violence. It’s simply not that easy.
That's all very true, though I suppose a One Billion Rising supporter would answer that it's not an either/or question. Indeed, according Honour McMillan, who attended the in-world event, she met real life survivors and their friends and relatives there too. This suggests an even more crucial point that I hope doesn't get missed in the controversy:
As I wrote earlier this week, Second Life has proven to be an effective platform for people suffering from real world trauma. In the case of survivors of rape and violence, that includes online support communities where these people and their supporters can come together in an immersively comforting space, and express themselves through the protection of pseudonymous avatars. This anonymity is particularly important for the victims of violence who may find it difficult to speak about their suffering otherwise, especially if they are still endangered by their abusers. There are a number of Second Life support groups for victims of domestic violence and rape, and talking with several women who use SL as a respite and resource, my strong impression is it's an essential part of their healing process. I hope that isn't forgotten in the controversy. And if some of them find this support by first attending a virtual dance party, that's just as well too.
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