April is designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. What does that say about our society, that we find it necessary to even have a month designated for sexual assault awareness? Unfortunately, it highlights the fact that sexual violence exists and continues to be a serious problem.
The statistics tell a stark story: One in five women and one in 71 men experience rape at some time in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Particularly startling are the statistics for children and young adults. In a recent national survey, 37 percent of female rape victims were first raped between ages 18 and 24, and 42 percent of female rape victims were attacked before age 18. Of those victims, 30 percent were between 11 and 17 years old, and 12 percent were age 10 or younger. Twenty-eight percent of male rape victims were age 10 or younger.
It is incumbent on us as individuals, as a society and as Jews to work toward preventing sexual violence and to support and help those who experience such a trauma. That is why the Twin Cities Maimonides Society of the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul and Minneapolis Jewish Federation is sponsoring the program Sexual Assault: Finding Our Voices, on Sunday, April 19, from 1-4 p.m. This forum for health care professionals and the general public will feature a screening of the award-winning documentary Brave Miss World followed by a panel discussion and resource fair.
Brave Miss World tells the true story of Linor Abargil, Miss Israel 1998, who, just prior to the Miss World competition in Italy, was brutally raped. She survived the assault and went on to win the Miss World title. Abargil pursued her attacker first in Italian and then Israeli courts, and she became an attorney herself. Over the years, she has leveraged her experience, skills and passion to advocate for rape victims around the world.
Abargil’s story caught the attention of film director and producer Cecelia Peck, the daughter of legendary actor Gregory Peck. In telling this powerful story, Peck explores multiple aspects of sexual violence, both personal and societal.
After the film, a panel discussion will feature local experts from the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Sexual Violence Center, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, and the Injury and Violence Prevention Division of the Minnesota Department of Health. Attendees will also have the opportunity to speak with community agency representatives at a resource fair.
The forum will be held at the Humphrey School Conference Center at the University of Minnesota, 301 19th Ave. S., Minneapolis. It is free and open to the public, but reservations are requested. RSVP online at jewishstpaul.org/brave-miss-world.
The Twin Cities Maimonides Society is a professional group for Jewish health care providers sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul and the Minneapolis Jewish Federation. Tikkun Olam – repair of the world – is central to our mission as we strive to improve the health and welfare of our community through outreach, volunteerism and education.
Dr. Leslie Hahn is chair of the program committee for Sexual Assault: Finding Our Voices.