The Rape Foundation’s Annual Brunch Hosted by “Mad Men” Cast in Beverly Hills

On September the 25th I attended The Rape Foundation Annual Brunch in Beverly Hills. The event took place at billionaire Ronald Burkle’s mansion. As I valeted my 2000 Saturn Sedan behind a Mercedes and a BMW, and stepped up to the gates in my $30 dress I bought at Pacific Sunwear, I felt a little out of place. Everyone around me was decked out in what I imagined to be designer dresses, shoes and bags. I was greeted by the friendly staff and as I admired Burkle’s collection of Ferraris and Porches, another staff member joked with me about which car I would like to take home. I started to breathe and realized that there was nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone was here to support a very worthy cause and hang out with the cast of the Emmy award-winning series four years in a row, “Mad Men”.

Liesl Jackson in front of the mansion


The Rape Foundation was started 37 years ago by Gail Abarbanel. The Rape Treatment Center (RTC) was created to provide expert and compassionate care for victims and to work to change the attitudes and practices that, for too long, had kept victims silent. In the 37 years since it was founded, the RTC has given comprehensive care to over 37,000 sexual assault victims and their families. They have also assisted in preventing rapes in high risk age groups, speaking to hundreds of thousands of children in middle schools, high schools and colleges across the country. They have even collaborated with the California Attorney General to form the Fast Track Forensics Program(FTF). The FTFP makes it possible to send evidence collected during a victims examination directly to the California Department of Justice’s DNA lab, where samples are analyzed within four days. Thanks to the generous donations they’ve received over the years, they are able to offer all of their services completely free of charge.


Aaron Staton and Vincent Kartheiser

John Slatterly

Judging by the guest list of 900 attendees, the word has gotten out about this incredible organization. In addition to the “Mad Men” cast of Jon Hamm, Christina Hendricks, Elizabeth Moss, John Slattery, Aaron Staton and Vincent Kartheiser, other celebrity guests and sponsors in attendance included William H. Macy, star of Showtime’s new series “Shameless” and his wife Felicity Huffman (“Desperate Housewives”), E’s Chelsea Handler (“Chelsea Lately”), Jason Behr (90’s heartthrob star of the TV show “Roswell”), Jason Ritter, who is starring in the upcoming film “Free Samples,” Priscilla Presley, and the MC for the event was JK Simmons, best known for his work on TNT’s hit show “The Closer.”

Jon Hamm

 


Guests walking to the luncheon tent

As guests sampled appetizers, they were invited to explore Burkle’s expansive lawn and gardens.  It consisted of a koi pond, a huge swimming pool, and about six fountains all lined with benches, tables and chairs. I attended with the lovely Tiiu Leek Jacobson, mother of Pacific Punch’s own Lindsay Taub. Gradually we were all ushered into the tent and sat down to a delicious gourmet meal of seared tuna steak, a quinoa salad and an array of colorful stacked peppers and mushrooms. I was feeling pretty spoiled and having an excellent time. We weren’t far from the stage and if I wanted to I could reach behind me and tap Felicity Huffman on the shoulder. I also had a view of Christina Hendricks stealing sweet kisses from her new hubby Geoffrey Arend. JK Simmons came out and told a few jokes about having to be David Schwimmer’s last minute replacement as MC and then introduced the cast of “Mad Men.” He spoke highly of the dynamic cast and how it is a show that “approaches real stories about the degradation of women in the 60’s with honesty and humility.” The cast stepped on stage and one by one, each cast member stood up to speak about their experiences at the RTC. Apparently before attending this event each of them spent time visiting the care center.

Christina Hendricks, who plays Joan Harris on the show, spoke about her recent episode in which her character is raped by her fiancé. She said, “there were many discussions on whether it was rape because it was her fiancé. This is a common misconception. Many people think rape is rare, it happens with strangers, and in neighborhoods we don’t know. Sadly most often this isn’t the case.” She spoke about what a week’s worth of patients at the care center might look like — patients who can range from 92 years old to less than a year old all dealing with various forms of sexual abuse and many of them being family members, colleagues and close friends.

One particular facility at the RTC that was mentioned frequently was Stuart House. Stuart House is a facility that is dedicated to helping children and youths from infants to 17 years old. Elizabeth Moss, who plays Peggy Olson, described it. “I immediately broke down to tears. I was just so moved by the care and attention to detail. The fact that they had made sure that there was no sign on the door, and there are no windows so that the victims would never be surprised or startled by anyone walking by. The children who come to this facility range from 17 to 12 to 3 years old. It is a beautiful place with calm soothing colors, and lots of stuffed animals and toys; whatever it takes to make them feel as safe as possible.” She also mentioned that oftentimes during a rape investigation a victim may have to tell their story up to 12 different times.  “Before Stuart House, a child that has been molested would have to be taken to a police station, then a hospital, then a county agency, then a counseling agency, then a court agency — this kind of ordeal would result in the victim feeling like they had done something wrong. At Stuart House they only have to tell their story once.”


William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman

Jon Hamm, whom we all know as the suave ladies man Don Draper on “Mad Men,” was the next to step forward. He told a story about being raised by a single parent, and that before he was an actor he worked at a day care center and as a teacher. He noticed that many of the after school programs he participated in had very few men. “There weren’t any dudes,” were his exact words. He mentioned that RTC is putting more focus into enlightening men. The RTC has now added The Men’s Advisory Council. It consists of about 12 men with a mission to educate other young men about the lasting effects of rape. “Involving men in this educational process is key, and it’s something that has had an effect,” Hamm added.


Priscilla Presley

The next person to step up to the stage was Gail Abarbanel, founder of the RTC. She immediately received a standing ovation. After graciously thanking everyone for being there, she opened with this statement. “Imagine for a few moments what it feels like in the first few minutes and the first few hours and even the first few days after you’re raped, in the situations that have been described earlier. You feel so alone when this happens to you. You feel so broken afterwards, so violated and really defeated and you have so many worries about your injuries, and your safety and how your family is going to react; who you’re going to tell, where you’re going to go.” I braced myself, for I knew what was coming next — the rest of the brunch consisted of Gail introducing one-by-one three brave and beautiful women who shared their horrific stories of rape.

A packet of tissues was passed around the table and we each took one. For these women, every woman’s worst nightmare came true. I listened and at times found myself covering my mouth to suppress a gasp, looking away mortified that something so evil could occur right here in Los Angeles to such unsuspecting, innocent women. However, these stories were not being told so we would pity these women. They told them so we would understand that they were survivors, not victims.

The RTC has assisted in helping these women in multiple ways. One woman said, “When I was raped, my heart broke and the RTC helped me put the pieces back together.” Another young woman told of how she was skeptical going into the treatment center. “I thought therapy was just something rich people did to escape their problems.” She said with a grin that broke into a wide smile as she added, “the RTC helped me tap into the strength that I didn’t even know I had inside me.” The RTC has helped these women go to college, find loving and lasting relationships and learn how to use their stories to help other men and women suffering from the after effects of rape and abuse. Each of these brave admirable women also received a standing ovation and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

The cast of “Mad Men” returned to the stage to close the ceremony. Thanks to a very generous donation from Tiiu, I was able to have my picture taken with the cast and am eagerly awaiting it’s arrival so I can share it with all of you.

Overall, it was a day I will never forget. I can’t say enough good things about this incredible organization and the “Mad Men” cast were absolutely wonderful — as kind and humble as can be. It is tragic that there is such a need for a treatment center like this, but I am very grateful to know that it’s there 24 hours a day and 7 days a week giving men and women of all ages love, encouragement, strength, and confidence. One of the survivors put it just right. She said, “Now I smile because I have hope in my heart and hope in my future.”

To learn more about The Rape Treatment Center visit www.911rape.org.

**Liesl Jackson is a writer/actress/comedian/pet sitter living in the heart of Hollywood. She loves the arts, animals, volunteering, traveling, and attempting to learn the acoustic guitar. Email her at liesljackson@yahoo.com. Follow The Pacific Punch on Twitter @ThePacificPunch.***

About Liesl Jackson:
Liesl Jackson is a writer/actress/comedian/pet sitter living in the heart of Hollywood. She loves the arts, animals, volunteering, traveling, and attempting to learn the acoustic guitar. Email her at liesljackson@yahoo.com. Follow her on twitter @SillyLiesl and follow The Pacific Punch @ThePacificPunch.

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