For years, the stories swirled in shops and beauty salons along Harlem Avenue. A wife had been disfigured by a jealous husband; a rape victim had been sent back to the Middle East.

One thing was clear to social workers hearing such accounts from community leaders, but not seeing the women in counseling: Local Arab-Americans lacked a safe place where sexual assault victims could comfortably seek help.

That will change by June 1, when Pillars Community Services–a non-profit agency in Summit, aided by Muslim women activists–starts airing radio and television spots, running newspaper ads and plastering posters on bus shelters alerting women in Arabic and English that help is available.

The goal is to aid victims by providing therapists who speak Arabic and people who understand a culture in which the family’s honor depends on the chastity of the women and sexual crime is spoken of in whispers, if at all…

 

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