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Former Miss World Linor Abargil makes film of her rape

ONLY seven weeks before she was named Miss World, Linor Abargil was raped and almost lost her life at the age of 18.
A decade later, the Israeli model is to return to the scene of the crime in a documentary she hopes will inspire other rape victims to pursue their attackers as tenaciously as she did.
"I want to connect with women who have been raped," Abargil said.
"If I'd made this documentary 10 years ago, it would have been as a victim.
"Today, I will make it as a survivor."
In the film, to be produced and directed by Cecilia Peck, the 50-year-old daughter of actor Gregory Peck, Abargil will recall events leading up to the attack.
She had been purring down the catwalks of Italy's fashion capital when she became homesick and decided to leave early.
She went to a travel agency in Milan to buy a flight to Rome on her way back to Israel.
Uri Shlomo, an Israeli travel agent, told her all flights to Rome were fully booked but said he was driving there and offered her a lift.
On the outskirts of the city, he stopped his BMW and stabbed her. He taped her mouth and hands and raped her repeatedly before trying to asphyxiate her with a cord and a plastic bag.
Somehow, she persuaded him to let her go.
She went to the Italian police the following day and Shlomo was questioned before being released.
Israeli investigators eventually took over the case. They tricked Shlomo into travelling to Israel and arrested him there.
Abargil testified behind closed doors - she remembers that both she and the female prosecutor were in tears - and he was given a 16-year jail sentence.
Abargil, now 28, bristles when asked about reports that she succeeded in having the rapist jailed because of her celebrity.
"I got him jailed not because I was Miss World but because I wanted to get him into prison. I never gave up.
"I knew from the beginning that I would win."
Since then she has been approached by many young rape victims who felt they had nobody else to talk to.
For the documentary, she plans a graphic account of the attack.
"I'll tell the whole story, all the details, everything," she said.
"I don't want to be ashamed of what happened to me. Films show the details of other crimes all the time, so I will show the details of rape.
"If you don't want to see it, you don't have to watch."
Asked how she would cope with retelling the story in detail, she replied: "It will be hard but I always think of my duty - it's something I can do for other people."
Abargil and Peck have set up a website to seek other rape victims willing to take part in the film at http://www.linordocumentary.com.
"The only way to overcome rape is to talk about it," Abargil said.
"I want victims to say, 'Yes, it happened to me and I want the guy to go to prison'. I want their families to know."
She hopes it will make women less ashamed and less inclined to blame themselves. She also wants better police procedures, longer jail sentences and rehabilitation for rapists in prison.
Peck, who made the documentaries Shut Up & Sing, about the Texan band Dixie Chicks, and In Conversation with Gregory Peck, said she was struck by Abargil's determination to share what happened to her.
"As a filmmaker, you look for someone who is willing to tell the truth, even when it makes you uncomfortable," she said.
"I'm here to find out how one young woman was able to summon up the courage to step forward when so many others don't. Linor's mother, from the moment she answered the phone, told her to go straight to the police and not blame herself, when so many other mothers will tell their daughters never to say a word."
After a short-lived marriage to Sarunas Jasikevicius, a Lithuanian basketball star, Abargil is working as an actor in Israel and studying for a law degree.
"I want to fight for women, people can take from me. I wasn't born just to eat and sleep," she said.
She admits she has yet to overcome the trauma caused by the rape.
"I get flashbacks or nightmares sometimes. For good or bad, it's part of who I am. Sometimes it hurts more, sometimes it hurts less.
"But I get on with life."

The Australian (22-12-2008)


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