What Happens to One, Happens to All. ~ Lisa  Merrai Labon 

Via elephant journal
on Feb 14, 2013
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Nearly every woman I know has experienced some type of sexual violence or abuse…including me.

It’s so common place that I count myself lucky that it wasn’t worse; I’ve heard the first hand stories of terrible trauma, often at the hands of people with intimate access and trust.

Sitting down to write about One Billion Rising, I intended to add my voice to the growing global chorus of awakening women and men. And then the memories of my own violations began to sprout from the keyboard like sow thistle.

There was the older creepy kid in the apartment complex who tried to lock me and my brother in his apartment to play show and tell. I was frozen with fear and sobbing uncontrollably—I begged him to let us go.

Thankfully, my ferociously courageous little brother kicked that kid in the shins until he let us leave.

I remember the boy I had been friends with in art class, who tried to rape me my freshman year in high school. He didn’t get very far, because he sorely underestimated my strength and determination not to let him have his way.

It was terrifying. But the aftermath was far worse; I was blamed for his choices and behavior. I managed to avoid ever seeing him again until our 20th high school reunion. He said hello; the shock and pain of his teenage attack throbbed to the surface like a hot muscular scar. I reflexively said hello back, astounded by the absurdity of standing in front of my attacker all these years later.

What do you say?  

You hurt me. Not once, but twice. You lied to everyone and blamed me for your beastly behavior. What do you have to say for yourself?

I realized that an apology would have meant a lot; I did not expect to get one. Then I saw his gorgeous wife—did she know about him? What if he had changed?

He is a doctor in Texas now. Primum non nocere (first, do no harm).

He seemed relieved that I chose not to confront him.

I wish that had been the last mortifying transgression on my body. Another friend in high school betrayed my trust and friendship by setting me up with a boy who wanted to lose his virginity to me. She played along with his game, watching me fall hopelessly in love with a lie. To him, I was a means to and end. How many boys grow up thinking that way?

Fortunately, he only succeeded in breaking my heart.

In college, I met a hunk of guy at a party and when he wanted to move too quickly past first base, I decided it was time to go. He got really rough and it scared me.

“What’s the matter with you? All the girls want me.”

I lost a pearl earring in that wake up call.

Even in Sweden, where most men are fairly egalitarian in their relationships, a guy tried to feel me up while I was asleep. And when I was in the corporate world, I had a few harassing dates with men who just could not understand why the date was over.

And in this world of atrocious crimes against women and girls, I count myself lucky.

Our daughters deserve better. This should be the year of Vagina Valentine’s, a proclamation of unconditional love and respect for all girls and women. Our vaginas are not invitations to be assaulted, fondled, grabbed or abused in any way. Ever. We should be honoring the sweet life giving nectar that is yours, mine and ours.

Sending a Valentine should not be about getting into a vagina but honoring the sacred dignity and inherent humanity of every woman and girl who has one.

Thanks to Eve Ensler, the award winning playwright of  The Vagina Monologues, founder of City of JoyOne Billion Rising has galvanized millions of men and women from all walks of life and positions of influence to push for life saving changes around the world.

On February 14th, we are all urged to do whatever we can to rise up and take back our planet, our hope and our right to a peaceful, healthy world.

One billion women are in more danger than any soldier in war.

As Thandie Newton explains in her recent interview, violence against women is species suicide. The perpetrators are often victims of massive trauma in their own lives.  Standing up for girls, heals boys as well. The cycle must to stop.



We may never fully understand what provokes the perpetrators of violence towards women and girls, but we can certainly raise awareness and consciousness so that more of us know, without any doubt, that it is wrong.

There are thousands of campaigns all over the world, implementing whatever strategies and policies are most needed in those areas. We can begin in the United States by celebrating our Senate passing the Anti-violence Against Women Act.

One in three women are victims of rape, violence or abuse.

Eve Ensler started V Day 15 years ago on Valentine’s Day, to bring awareness to the global epidemic of rape and abuse against women. Her wildly successful play The Vagina Monologues allowed women and men to begin speaking about female sexuality and experiences with liberating boldness.

The way we treat women and girls is absolutely reflected in how we treat the earth and ourselves. Isn’t it time to see the feminine, our daughters, sisters, mothers, wives and Mother Nature herself as inherently worthy of protection and unequivocally valuable to our shared future?

We are all connected in this; what happens to one, happens to all.

The time to get up and be part of this global revolution is now—I’ll stand by you, and all of the women and girls of the world.


 Lisa Labon headshotLisa Merrai Labon is a writer, mother of four and awestruck traveler of our glorious planet. Lisa contributed “Take A Family Sabbatical” to “Pearls of Wisdom:  30 Inspirational Ideas to Live your Best Life Now!” with best selling authors Jack Canfield, Marci Shimoff, Chris and Janet Attwood and 25 of the best up-and-coming authors self-help authors of today.  She is editing her first novel Freya Wolf: Awakening, a tale of ancient intrigue and harrowing adventure for all ages.  If she had a clone, she would be a photo journalist for National Geographic or a diver archeologist searching for the lost city of Atlantis.You can learn more about Lisa and her work at www.lisalabon.com



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24 Responses to “What Happens to One, Happens to All. ~ Lisa  Merrai Labon ”

  1. Beautifully written. I hope there is never anyone anywhere who will ever doubt your strength, determination, or will as I suspect they will get a whole lot more than a good swift kick in the shins; a non-violent public tongue lashing. You are such an amazing voice and light in the world.

  2. Julie says:

    Awesome article Lisa – you are such an inpiration.

  3. Lisa Signor says:

    Heart wrenching and warming to hear your personal stories. Perpetrators of women walk all around us and are in many ways shrugged off as “boys will be boys.” There are no exuses. Rape is rape and there is no exuse for violence.
    More of us need to stand up and speak up for what is going on behind closed doors. Awareness is key. Sex ed in schools are close to none. Especially in Utah. Why? It concerns all and is tremendously important. Education is key to understanding and harmony. Ignorance is root of evil, regression and fear.
    I too have been affected by physical violence, but still to this day I cannot talk about it, because it simply hurts too much. To be a victim is easily seen as shameful by society. “What did I do to cause violence against me?” I have been asked. Irk!
    Thank you Lisa for a great article. I am rising too.

  4. LLabon says:

    Thank you, Renee. As hard as this was to relive and share, I am grateful that more women and men are rising up to do something about it. No, certainly does mean no, but we have a lot of work to do.

  5. LLabon says:

    Thanks, Julie. xo

  6. LLabon says:

    Lisa, I know what you mean about "it simply hurts too much." I shoved all of this away in the closet of "over and done with that," but as I was writing it wanted to stand as testament that abuse is wide spread and touches us all. I cringe thinking about all the little boys with smart phones watching hardcore porn at recess…no filter, no guidance, no support. And all the little girls dressing "the part" they are told "works" to get the attention of boys. It's so twisted.

    I support open discussions of healthy sexuality. It's a terrible shame that schools and our public discussions cannot provide a healthy counterbalance to what is pushed via movies/music/pop culture…I say, demystify sex AND make it sacred…not forbidden or reserved for certain conditions, but part of our mind-body-spirit maturation…something natural and healthy and shared with love and respect.

  7. sharongreenthal says:

    I had the great experience of hearing Eve Ensler speak at the Women's Conference, and she sends a powerful message. You're courageous to talk about what happened to you. I had an abusive boyfriend when I was 18 – he only physically attacked me once, but that was enough. Back then we didn't know there was a word for it, did we?

  8. Haralee says:

    Great for speaking out! When in my 2nd year of college a guy from my math class followed me as I cut through buildings because it was so cold. He had a broken bottle that he tried to subdue me with at the back of my head but I had my keys in my gloved hands and went for his eyes. I was screaming so much others outside the building heard and got the guy. I do not remember screaming. I pressed charges and he said I smiled at him in class so thought I was interested in him. Fast forward 15 years and a letter arrived at my parents address and this guy was taking me to court for injuries to his eyes! One call to my attorney and it never went any farther. I wasn't injured and it didn't stop me from smiling at people but gave me a lesson in being more aware of my surroundings.

  9. beverlydiehl says:

    I've been molested, raped, and harassed, and to steal from Maya Angelou, "And still I rise."

    Yet though I have survived, thrived even, despite abuse, I don't want my nieces and granddaughters, if I have any someday, to have to endure these things. No woman should have to live in constant fear.

    It's beyond time we said ENOUGH.

  10. Weeping Oak says:

    I, too, dismissed many of my experiences, counting myself lucky that it wan't worse. I chalked it up to just being a young girl or woman, but it's not okay and it's not acceptable and I thank you for writing this and shining the light on the truth.

  11. LLabon says:

    True, Sharon. We didn't really have a word or even a concept other than "that's not cool." But what I'm realizing is that this trauma extends far beyond an isolated incident for any one of us. We second guess ourselves. Our words, our body movements, our dress, even our own memories…trying to understand how we brought this horror on ourselves…and that is wrong. Being a cute little girl does not merit abuse.

  12. LLabon says:

    Holy cow, Haralee! That's assault! And exactly the kind of mentality the kid who tried to rape me had…he had no concept that what he did was absolutely wrong. He defended his actions to the end. I had no idea that he even liked me that way…I thought we were just friends until he literally attacked me.

  13. LLabon says:

    Amen, sister.

  14. LLabon says:

    It is time. Thank you for reading and sharing. If we all rise, together we can change this for our children.

  15. Julie E. says:

    Thanks for sparking an important conversation and searching for ways to enlighten each other and our kids. I can't imagine how confusing it must be for young people to navigate this territory with so many mixed messages (particularly in our media) about what is and isn't ok to do to/with another person. As a teen and young woman I experienced a range of scary male behavior, from unwanted advances that took a lot of persuasion to stop to out-and-out attacks for being out on the street at night – even when I was with another woman just trying to get to our car and go home. One of the worst times was in college when I guy whom I had flirted with showed up drunk at my dorm room door late at night. I told him I was sleeping and sent him away and he came back with a whole crew of guys pounding on my door and screaming for me to open it. (I didn't). What did I do about it the next day? Nothing, just thanked my lucky stars I was ok. I hope stuff like that doesn't happen now, but it probably does. So yes, education, activism, and mostly being honest about what's going on out there.

  16. lynnieliu says:

    wonderful article lisa. thanks so much for sharing your personal stories and insights. to paraphrase my friend jen gilbert (i never promised you a goody bag), those words "at least it wasn't …" (in this case rape) can do so much damage to the psyche. all those near misses that could have been worse are still horrors in their own right. and we need to understand that even if it didn't result in rape, emotional and physical violence sets girls up for long lives of fear and mistrust of men, whether that's walking to our cars alone in a garage, or heading over to the boy next door's house, even if they haven't been RAPED. how many men know what it feels like to have to walk quickly, clutching keys like a weapon and looking all around you as you head to your apartment, office, car, wherever for fear of an attack? i doubt i know a woman who hasn't felt that many times over, no matter where she lives. i think it's so pervasive it seems normal (and yes, that's here in the good ole USA). and lisa, your recounting of the cover up is particularly enraging. we must believe girls who come forward with their stories without judging them (e.g "she asked for it by drinking, dressing like that" or fill in the blank with whatever else people say) and without using those words "at least it wasn't worse."

  17. linda says:

    Thank you so much for this …. I know I have been in the same place you were and decided I could not go to my reunion…the affects of what happened caused me to become numb and live myself detached from my body and my feelings for decades…the cycle of blaming ourselves is so insidious…the idea that I needed to be taught a lesson as I was told killed a part of me for sure…and tore away at the vibrancy within me….even though I thought I pushed it down to a place that could never be discovered…to cry the tears of healing that were pushed away and over the past few years welled up from I do not know where other than my practice of yoga trying to do its healing wonders….has been a process for which I am so thankful….I have no desire to say anything to the people involved…rather just set my soul free from the chains that bound it so tightly…to share these words this way is healing in itself….I pray for the day when the tears will no longer need to be shed-that woman value themselves for the goddesses they are and that the world respects and regards the feminine in all…

  18. LLabon says:

    I do not understand how boys/men are getting the message that harassing women or girls is okay or even exciting. I can't imagine violent video games are helping.

  19. LLabon says:

    Yes, I remember VERY well walking with keys in my knuckles…especially in college and just after. I've taken self defense classes and contemplate having my girls do it as well.

  20. LLabon says:

    Linda, I am so glad that you are working to heal this. It is so confusing and painful. The worst thing for me, was trying to understand, to empathize with my attackers…isn't that what we (women) do reflexively? "Why did he do that? Did I do something to provoke that?" Predators take advantage. That's what they do. But I don't believe in hiding. We can set standards of behavior and norms and clearly send a message to any would be predators that they will be punished very seriously for their behavior. Just as we do for other crimes like robbery, etc. And I think it would be real progress if our media creatives would start to consciously and intentionally provide healthier role models in characters on all the screens our children are growing up with.

  21. […] to provide. I only imagine never hearing my phone ring, or getting the mail, or hearing about some human atrocity or insanity inflicted on another. I can only dream of the sounds of nature being my constant companion, and earth under my body as I […]

  22. […] I was horrified by the rapes, but it didn’t occur to me then that sexual abuse is not restrict… It took me a really long time to realize this, but I now believe that sexual violence is far more complicated and ingrained. […]

  23. archaaeon says:

    Great article — sharing!
    My hope is this raises awareness of the awful injustice of needless violence against females and stimulates empowerment for women and men alike!
    I am a sensitive man an a passionate champion towards justice for women who suffer violence — *AND* it is worth sharing a vital corrective to the idea that women suffer from violence in greater numbers or more than men do.
    The article says: "One billion women are in more danger than any soldier in war."
    "One in three women are victims of rape, violence or abuse."

    What these crucially important numbers mask is the cold awful fact that while males are by far the greater perpetrators of violence against either gender, they also suffer violence in numbers that far outstrip the female gender.
    A fair order of magnitude estimate places 9 in 10 males as victims of "rape, violence or abuse."

    Women are certainly extra vulnerable and one would be a fool to want to distract awareness from this fact…and yet we would be likewise insensitive to choose willful ignorance around the awful numbers of males who suffer violence. as well…

    <bows in gratitude>
    thank you for this

  24. LLabon says:

    Thank you, Archaaeon. All violence and abuse must end. There is no question about that.