Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 22nd 2014 Contents A34
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, March 22, 2014
When 18-year-old Israeli beauty queen Linor
Abargil was crowned Miss World in 1998, the tears
streaming down her cheeks appeared to be the over-
whelming joy of a young woman fulfilling a child-
hood dream. Few knew the painful truth behind
them---that just six weeks earlier she had been raped
Unlike most victims of sexual assault, Abargil
refused to keep quiet. She pressed charges, spoke
out publicly and testified at a trial that sent her
attacker to prison for 16 years. Her ordeal inspired
other Israeli women to break their own silence and
in the process, she became a national symbol who
helped destigmatise rape in the country.
Today, the 34-year-old mother of three s crusade
against sexual violence is going global, thanks to an
international speaking tour and new documentary,
Brave Miss World, in which she details her ordeal
and speaks to dozens of other victims, many of whom
shared their tales of terror for the first time.
"If you go through something very bad or very
hard, the only pill you can take is to tell, to take it
out of your system. Because if you don t, it is like
a tumor---it becomes bigger and bigger until it kills
you," she told The Associated Press this week, shortly
after returning from a visit to India. "I feel that I
have this privilege to really help other women to
In Brave Miss World, director Cecilia Peck chronicles
Abargil s journey from teenage rape victim to out-
spoken lawyer and activist and finally to wife and
mother who discovered a newfound comfort in her
Jewish faith. Interviews with her parents, her husband
and even a former boyfriend shed light on how the
rape altered her life but also how her strength helped
transform her into an unlikely ambassador.
In the documentary, shot over four years, Abargil
listens to the stories of rape victims ranging from
American college students to young South African
girls to Hollywood celebrities like Fran Drescher and
Joan Collins---who disclosed for the first time that
she married the man who raped her.
"There is something about Linor that gives cred-
ibility to rape survivors. They know that they will be
believed, it helps relieve that burden of shame," said
Peck, whose previous work includes Shut Up and
Sing, a documentary about the US country singers
the Dixie Chicks.
Peck, daughter of legendary actor Gregory Peck,
said the film s name was a subtle allusion to Aldous
Huxley s famous novel Brave New World, in which
the government tried to control even citizens sex
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National
Network, America s largest anti-sexual violence organ-
isation, one out of six American women has been
the victim of rape or an attempted rape, with 60 per
cent of them unreported to police. The figures are
similar in Israel and other Western nations and far
higher in the developing world.
Peck said the film s Web site has become a focal
point for victims to speak out. More than 300,000
people already have visited the site, with many writing
about the abuse they experienced. Hundreds of e-
mails arrive each day, she said.
Abargil said she was drawn to the project since
she was not the type of person to just seek "justice
for myself and then walk away." Rather, she felt that
as a public figure she had a responsibility to break
the taboo around rape and give other women the
courage to talk about it.
Abargil s own story was just as horrific. She was
in Milan, Italy, in October 1998 auditioning for mod-
eling jobs when she asked Uri Shlomo Nur, an Egypt-
ian-born Israeli who ran a travel agency there, to
arrange a flight back to Israel.
Nur told her there were no flights from Milan to
Israel and offered to drive her to Rome where she
could catch a plane. During the ride, Nur pulled the
car into a thicket, stabbed her, strangled her and
raped her at knifepoint. She managed to escape and
call her mother.
She told her daughter not to shower, to report the
rape to police and give DNA evidence at a hospital.
That helped convict Nur in Israel. Still in prison, he
is slated for release this summer.
Throughout the trial, Abargil refused to have her
name concealed or her face or voice distorted in
media coverage, insisting that there was no reason
to be ashamed. (AP)
Israeli Miss World's
anti-rape crusade goes global
with her four-
daughter at her
home in Netanya,
Israel. AP PHOTO
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