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Judd Apatow was honored Oct. 4 at The Rape Foundation’s annual brunch at Greenacres, billionaire Ron Burkle’s private estate in Beverly Hills. The foundation provides free treatment and counseling services to victims of rape as well as training for physicians, teachers and police officers on how to handle cases of sexual abuse.
The ceremony kicked off with an introduction by David Schwimmer. After making a few cracks at the sight of A-listers being shuttled up “like cattle” to the estate, the comedian’s voice broke when he introduced the cause he has supported for 18 years: “We see an average of three to four new victims every day, over half of which are children. They range in age from 2 years old to 92, and they come from all walks of life, from every part of the city and every possible circumstance,” Schwimmer said.
Schwimmer also announced the opening of a second Stuart House in November that will provide additional services for child victims of sexual abuse and their families.
Gail Abarbanel, president of The Rape Foundation since its inception, lauded the work that Apatow has done by using his platform to advocate for the rights of sexual abuse victims and to advocate that rape prevention is a man’s responsibility as well.
Lena Dunham soon took the stage in support of Apatow, her friend and colleague.
She described Apatow as “a tireless advocate for women. That means insisting unusual female stories are told on big and small screens. That means treating his daughters with the seriousness he’d treat men in a board room and that means never ever accepting misogyny, assault or abuse as the status quo in Hollywood or in the real world.”
Dunham also revealed that Apatow was one of the first people who read the essay that would become her New York Times best seller Not That Kinda Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned, in which she opened up about her sexual assault while attending college.
When Apatow took the stage, he admitted to feeling embarrassed, saying, “Nobody should be honored for tweeting,” in reference to his “long, late-night rants against Bill Cosby.” Apatow called out Hollywood’s inaction against Cosby, noting, “Almost nobody in our community spoke out against him. To this very day, very few people with power have gone on record and said he’s an evil person — and I stand with his victims.”
He encouraged the audience to support the women accusing Cosby and warned how refusing to do so would set a dangerous precedent. “We need to intervene when someone is crossing the line, and we need to be role models for respectful relationships. We all need to support the victims and tell them we care about you because if we don’t, then people will not come forward, and the abuse and the violence will continue.”
Apatow then stepped down to make way for Abarbanel, who shared the stories of three victims who have been aided by the foundation. Their stories revealed some of the largest obstacles that rape victims face when coming forward: school and physician inaction, victim shaming and an unbalanced legal process that leaves the victims scrutinized in court.
As the victims shared their stories, many in the audience wiped their eyes, fighting back tears.
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