Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Here's our vote for Vicki Polin, advocate for sex abuse victims, as Hero of the Year

by Jerry Demarco

If anyone exemplifies selflessness and courage, it’s Vicki Polin, founder of The Awareness Center, dedicated to ending sex crimes in Jewish communities worldwide. She’s been spit on, threatened and degraded as she protects those seeking justice through the legal system, while detractors on the religious end insist on handling matters “in house.”

CLIFFVIEW PILOT urges you to vote for Polin in the second-annual "Jewish Community Heroes" campaign before the Oct. 8 deadline.

And here’s the cool part: Just like in the heyday of Hudson County politics -- and, before then, Chicago -- you can vote early and often, same as you would for Major League Baseball’s All Star Game. The rules allow you to cast a ballot once every 12 hours. Last year, a half-million votes in all were cast.

Just go to Jewish Community Heroes: The nominees

You can even follow the Leaderboard to see how she’s doing.

Vicki wants to be chosen, but not for personal reasons. The Jewish Federations of North America's Hero of the Year gets a $25,000 grant to be used as an investment in a community or non-profit venture. Four other finalists will receive smaller amounts for similar purposes.

“This is funding The Awareness Center desperately needs to continue our fight for the rights of Jewish survivors of sexual abuse/assault on an international scale,” Vicki said.

What better promotion for a contest that celebrates those who put others before themselves?

The winner and runners-up will be selected by online nomination for 20 semifinalists. A panel of judges will select the honorees from that list.

Vicki is comfortably in the top 20, in ninth place. She’s 3,800 votes from the fifth spot, which would merit strong attention from the judges.

Even though the Awareness Center has distributed its own promotional materials, I can tell you, in the year or so that I’ve known her, that Vicki has worked hard to shine a light on a problem that many in the Jewish community do not want aired publicly -- particularly given the pedophile scandal in the Catholic Church.

Warning of sexual predators, offering support to the abused, Vicki has been a voice for sex crime victims throughout the various Jewish sects ever since she launched The Awareness Center nearly a dozen years ago.

“Vicki teaches survivors of sex crimes not to feel shame or blame for the crimes committed against them,” the promotional material accurately states. “Blame belongs to those committing the crimes and those who cover them up.

“She helps survivors find mental health, medical and legal professionals with the training and experience to work with survivors. Vicki's also testifies in legislative hearings in hopes of creating laws to better protect children.”

In many other instances, I’d advise people: Don’t buy the hype.

In Vicki’s case, this gentile would pay retail.

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