V-Day LA Luncheon covered in Associated Press, People and Los Angeles Times
Jessica Alba on Rihanna, Chris Brown allegations: 'universal problem'
"The Vagina Monologues" creator Eve Ensler's annual V-Day luncheon in Los Angeles was focused on violence toward women in the Congo.
But Jessica Alba and Kerry Washington, two celeb supporters of the international organization that has — since 1998 — raised more than $60 million to stop global violence against women, also spoke about the recent Hollywood drama about Rihanna's alleged assault by boyfriend Chris Brown.
"When things happen publicly, it just makes it a more universal problem that more people can relate to," Jessica Alba told the Associated Press.
"Whether it's about the Congo or about celebrities, domestic violence is a social illness that does not discriminate," Kerry Washington told the Dish Rag. "We have to start talking more openly about this."
Eve referred to Rihanna's alleged assault and the shooting deaths of three members of Jennifer Hudson's family last year, telling the audience, "All these women are our sisters."
We spoke to Eve about the large number of reader comments on the Dish Rag blog implying that Rihanna may have been to blame for the alleged attack.
Are there socio-economic or racial divides regarding acceptable violence against women?
"I don't believe it's a cultural thing," Ensler said. "In every community in the world, one out of three women are beaten or raped. I've seen justification for it in every community in the world. The climate will exist until we shift the mindset of violence against women being unacceptable and not normal. We are still living in a world where the victim — the woman — is blamed. It's not a cultural thing. Violence against women keeps patriarchy and its oppression and domination in its place. It keeps a structure where men and women can't live in their full selves. It's in every social strata and in every section of society."
Maria Shriver told all the luncheon guests, including Maria Bello, Charlize Theron, Oscar nominee Anne Hathaway, Rosario Dawson, Glamour magazine's Cindi Leive, ex-Paramount head Sherry Lansing and producer Paula Wagner:"Violence goes on in the best of homes and in poor areas — particularly in times of struggle. Let's all go out and change one boy, man today."
Rihanna among topics at V-Day anti-violence lunch
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The topic of Friday's star-studded V-Day luncheon was the organization's work with women in the Congo. But Jessica Alba, Kerry Washington and other supporters of V-Day, which has raised more than $60 million to stop violence against women and girls worldwide, were also talking about Rihanna.
"When things happen publicly, it just makes it a more universal problem that more people can relate to," said Alba, an annual participant in the V-Day luncheon.
Rihanna was reportedly involved in a domestic dispute with boyfriend Chris Brown last week that resulted in his arrest and booking on charges of making criminal threats. A police statement said the woman who reported the incident was injured, and identified Brown as her attacker. Charges have not yet been filed, and neither Brown nor Rihanna has come forth to comment on the incident.
On Friday, Alba read a poem inspired by the experience of a Congolese woman raped so severely and repeatedly by soldiers that she needed surgery. Washington, who serves on the V-Day board, called violence against women "a social illness that does not discriminate."
"This is a problem that spreads from the Congo to Hollywood," she said. "When it happens to someone famous, it's a tragedy that it happened, but what I hope is that people become less and less afraid to talk about how truly devastating this social illness is."
Rosario Dawson, also a board member, mentioned Rihanna and Jennifer Hudson in her plea to guests to support the V-Day cause.
"What's so incredible is the sympathy, courage, love and compassion that comes from that," she said. "That's what we need to be tapping into and realizing that all of these women, all across the world, are our sisters."
Playwright and activist Eve Ensler, who founded V-Day 11 years ago after the success of "The Vagina Monologues," offered a jarring statistic: one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.
"I'm sadly here to say violence against women is a human thing," Ensler said. "It's epidemic everywhere."
V-Day plans to hold 4,000 grass-roots events this year to educate people about violence against women and the atrocities in the Congo, where girls as young as 10 months and grandmothers in their 80s have been victims of sexual violence and mutilation, Ensler said.
Dr. Denis Mukwege, who received the United Nations Human Rights Prize in 2008 for his work in the Congo, told of how he performs a dozen surgeries each day on rape victims. Vicious rape is so common, he said, that he sees repeat patients. He's also seen wounded women crawl to his clinic door.
V-Day is joining forces with Mukwege's hospital and UNICEF to build a community for survivors of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ensler said.
Oscar nominee Anne Hathaway read a poem at the luncheon and Maria Shriver closed the program by urging guests to spread the word. Among those heeding her call? Charlize Theron, Camryn Manheim, Anne Archer and Sherry Lansing.
Rosario Dawson on Rihanna and Jennifer Hudson: We're All Sisters
By Sara Hammel
Originally posted Saturday February 14, 2009 07:05 AM EST
Rosario Dawson Photo by: Sylvain Gaboury / FilmMagicRosario Dawson on Rihanna and Jennifer Hudson: We're All Sisters | Rosario Dawson
Charlize Theron, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Kerry Washington and other prominent names gathered Friday to join forces to end violence against women the world over – and Rihanna was not far from anyone's minds.
At a luncheon in Beverly Hills for V-Day, The Vagina Monologues playwright Eve Ensler's movement to end violence against women and girls, V-Day board member Dawson made reference to Rihanna and Jennifer Hudson – whose family was murdered in October – as she addressed the luncheon, reminding the audience that "all these women are our sisters."
Last Sunday's alleged beating of Rihanna, 20, at the hands of her 19-year-old boyfriend Chris Brown (who is currently under police investigation) must be taken seriously, emphasized Washington.
"I don't know the details of their situation, but I do know this is an issue that can't go ignored," the Ray and Fantastic Four actress told PEOPLE.
"If we talk about violence against women, my hope is we don't talk about it as petty gossip but as a social illness that must end. So if that's what's going on, then we need to all be aware this is a problem that goes from the Congo to Hollywood and everywhere in between," said Washington."
Dawson earlier had told PEOPLE that she had "met Rihanna a few times, and I think she's such a sweet young lady, and my heart goes out to her."
Alba Tears Up
The event launched the Turning Pain to Power Tour, which aims to combat rampant rape and mutilation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and honored Dr. Denis Mukwege, who volunteers in the DRC to operate on women whose bodies have been ravaged by rape during the Congolese war.
Kicking off the lunch, Jessica Alba choked up as she read a first-person account of an African woman who had been attacked.
As she read a testimonial of Pasquazine, 39, who had been raped when intruders broke into her home and killed several family members, Alba teared up and paused before continuing.
Alba's delivery, along with readings of Ensler's latest work – by Rosario, Washington and the playwright herself – were "moving," Theron acknowledged afterwards.
"I was born and raised in a country with similar turmoil. People want to help, but don't know how," the South African Monster Oscar winner told PEOPLE. "This is just the tip of the iceberg."