On the front lines of sexual violence fight

Posted on 30 March 2012


Women’s Center speaker a leader in efforts to combat assault using new media, technology

Nancy Schwartzman, keynote speaker at the 32nd annual Women’s Center banquet Wednesday, made the 2009 documentary “The Line,” which chronicles her experiences after being raped in Israel. She also helped develop a “Circle of 6” app that helps women connect quickly if they feel threatened.

By Mike Klocke
Record Staff Writer
March 29, 2012 12:00 AM

STOCKTON – Nancy Schwartzman grew up in a Jewish family where sex was a “taboo” topic, saw her best friend raped at age 15 and later bought a one-way ticket to Jerusalem – camera in tow – determined to make documentaries.

“I never expected to be raped in Israel,” Schwartzman said. “But that’s where it happened. In Jerusalem, the Holy City.”

Schwartzman has channeled her experiences to become one of the nation’s leaders in using film, new media and digital technology to battle issues involving sexual assault.

She gave the keynote address Wednesday at the Women’s Center of San Joaquin County’s 32nd annual banquet at the Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium. The issues – and methods dealing with them – are as applicable in San Joaquin County as anywhere, she said.

“One in five college-age women – ages 18 to 22 – is sexually assaulted. And those are only the ones that are reported,” said Schwartzman, who makes frequent speeches at college campuses throughout the country.

Her appearances often include showing her 24-minute, 2009 documentary film “The Line.” It chronicles her personal experiences after the rape in Israel, looking at the line of consent, justice and accountability, and a “rape culture” that saturates today’s society.

In the documentary, she confronts the person whom she accuses of rape.

She chose the film’s name because of the line of sexual consent and how it varies. Schwartzman found many people – including close friends – questioning whether she had truly been assaulted.

Schwartzman quoted Don McPherson, a former NFL quarterback, about the perceived dichotomy between women and men in awareness of sexual assault problems.

“We raise women to survive in a rape culture, yet we do nothing to talk to men about not raping,” McPherson said.

Schwartzman said those words have helped guide her efforts.

Recently, that has included working with a team that developed the “Circle of 6” application for iPhones. It was chosen as the winning entry in the White House’s recent Apps Against Abuse technology challenge, spearheaded by Vice President Joseph Biden.

The free app helps women connect quickly if there are perceived threats of sexual abuse. “We wanted to create something that did not place the onus on the victims,” Schwartzman said.

For more information on the app, visit circleof6app.com. It was downloaded more than 12,000 times in its first week, Schwartzman said, adding that her group is working on usage in BlackBerry and Android products.

New technology can only help the Women’s Center at a time when it is serving so many, said Executive Director Joelle Gomez, who also announced that the nonprofit agency is merging with Family and Youth Services.

“We continue to be a strong and tenacious agency that weathers the storm,” Gomez told the gathering of about 500. “We survive and we thrive. We serve individuals who have experienced great pain but who show tremendous courage.”


Posted in: activist, culture, Israel, rape