Community members, students, and administrators gathered at University of California, Santa Barbara’s Pollock Theater on Thursday, May 15, for a screening of “Brave Miss World” with Director Cecilia Peck and Co-Prouducer and Additional Editor Elisa Bonora.
Both Peck and Bonora sat on a panel to discuss and reflect on their experiences of working on this film, alongside Jill Dunlap, the director of the Campus Advocacy Resources & Education Program (CARE) and Women’s Center at UCSB, and Cassie Pasquariello, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the UCSB Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). Moderated by Constance Penley, a UCSB film & media studies professor, these women engaged in thoughtful conversation, linking themes of the films to daily life at UCSB.
The documentary, “Brave Miss World,” recounted the rape, trial, and healing process of Linor Abargil, the Israeli winner of the 1998 Miss World Beauty Pageant. Seven weeks before she was crowned Miss World, Abargil was held at knife point and raped by Shlomo Nur in Milan, Italy. Ten years after her assault, Abargil founded a website called Linor Speaks Out, turning her traumatic experience into a more positive one in order to help other girls.
Throughout the film, Abargil visits various locations, from South Africa to New York and even Santa Barbara. During each visit, she meets with survivors of sexual assault. The filmmakers do a wonderful job compiling survivors’ stories, actively following each survivor’s trajectory to healing. The collection of personal narratives depict the notion that rape is blind to any culture, accent, or location; it is omnipresent.
“I am inspired by the women and the cast to seek justice,” said Peck, reflecting on the filming process. “I had never heard anyone who wasn’t very shy and embarrassed to speak about this so openly.”
Many people Abargil interviewed had never told anyone about their rape because they did not want to disappoint family and friends. A survivor in the film says that she is “a walking corpse, dead inside.” Despite this, the film emphasizes the role support systems have for survivors.
“Someone gave me the courage to speak out when I was raped,” said Abargil. “It was my mother. She knew the fault was his and not mine. I wish that all victims of rape would have a support system like you [my mother].”
The film depicts the reigniting fire within the survivors’ soul. Viewers are taken along Abargil’s social, emotional, and religious journey of healing. Whatever path one chooses for the road to healing, the pain will never be over–triggers exist. This is the story of the courage it takes to heal, the courage it takes to rekindle the spirt.
Dunlap also noted the degree of support survivors need and said that survivors “need consistent and sustained support throughout the process.”
Nonetheless, sometimes the listeners have trouble swallowing the news that a friend was raped. The listener, in addition to the survivor, also needs the right tools and support to help lead their loved one to a healthy healing process. UCSB created innovative programs to combat this issue. Instead of covering up the facts, UCSB is training students on how to report rape in a safe way and continually sustain support of their friends.
“This all cannot be a reaction,” Pasquariello said. “You have to back up. We need to get people in prevention training to attempt to stop the rape before it would happen.” Over 400 students this year have learned how to respond to rape through the CARE Connect Program.
Ultimately, the overarching message within the film is to know that one is not alone. Like CARE, there are a multitude of campus facilities, friends, and family members that one can utilize to start the path to healing.