Joe Biden Tells Oscar Audience to "Take the Pledge" Against Sex Abuse

Feb 29, 2016

The movie Spotlight won Oscar awards for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay at Sunday evening's 82nd annual Academy Awards ceremonies.

On the red carpet before the Oscar telecast, actor Mark Ruffalo, who played Boston Globe reporter Mike Rezendes in the movie, told ABC's Robin Roberts:

[Sexual abuse committed by clergy is] still happening today. I was at a protest today in Los Angeles at the Cathedral with the SNAP group, with the survivors of priest sexual abuse. They were telling me that every day they have more and more people coming out of the darkness to tell their stories of sexual abuse by priests. And the more that happens, the closer we get to actually healing this wound I think.

David Clohessy, Executive Director of SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) emailed:

At first glance, the movie Spotlight is about clergy sex crimes and cover-ups in Boston. But a troubling and accurate sub-text throughout the film is that any number of people were alerted to the crisis but chose, for various reasons, not to pursue it. I hope Whole Foods co-founder and co-CEO John Mackey and civil rights leader Ben Jealous see the movie and recognize it as a call to action.

On December 25, 2015, The New York Times reported former rabbi Marc Gafni's admission of sexual engagement with a minor, and Whole Foods CEO John Mackey's position on Gafni's nonprofit board of directors:

"He [Gafni] added, 'She was 14 going on 35...'"

"A co-founder of Whole Foods, John a chairman of the executive board of Mr. Gafni's center..."

The Monterey County Weekly subsequently reported former NAACP Ben Jealous's membership on Gafni's board of directors:

"Another board member is Ben Jealous, a Seaside native and former president of the NAACP from 2008-12, is also listed as a member of the board of the Center for Integral Wisdom. (Jealous did not respond to earlier requests from the Weekly for this story.)"

Sara Kabakov was the 14-year old girl whom Gafni referred to in The Times story as "going on 35." After The Times story broke, she came forward publicly for the first time. Her first-person essay appeared in the Forward, relating how she was abused while a teenager under then-Rabbi Gafni's tutelage.

Several media outlets followed up on The Times story, but the loudest public outcry came from the Jewish community, where Gafni has been a lightning rod for years. Rabbi David Ingber posted a petition authored by more than 100 rabbis, demanding that Mackey and Whole Foods to cut ties with Gafni. Rabbi Ingber told The Jewish Week that as Gafni "rises in the New Age world, he continues to act with impunity. We in the Jewish community didn't do enough years ago. We could have prevented many of the more recent victims."

Gafni's CIW website was soon scrubbed of all board members' profiles. These screenshots of Mackey and Jealous on Gafni's CIW Executive Board of Directors were taken on January 3, 2016:

df68b0ee-37f0-4912-80b1-7e3ea5deb9afBen Jealous Executive BOD CIW

Ben Jealous has been prominent in recent news, stumping for Bernie Sanders, rallying African American voters. Ben Jealous's father Fred Jealous presented a workshop with Gafni in 2013, on "Principles and Practices For Being A Fully Alive, Whole Man."

Vice President Joe Biden appeared on the Oscar stage Sunday night, greeted by a standing ovation. He introduced Lady Gaga who brought the audience to tears with "Till it Happens to You," her Oscar-nominated song from the movie The Hunting Ground, a documentary about campus rape. After her performance, Ms. Gaga was joined onstage by survivors of sexual assault whose arms bore slogans in bold, black marker, including "Unbreakable," and "Not Your Fault."

Continuing his decades-long work to change the culture of sexual violence, Biden urged the millions of viewers to "take the pledge. A pledge that says I will intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given. Let's change the culture."

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