Viola Davis Shares Powerful Story About Her Past Sexual Assault

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Actress Viola Davis attends the Rape Foundation's annual brunch on September 25, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

Viola Davis Shares Powerful Story About Her Past Sexual Assault

The HTGAWM star opens up about being raped and how we can help support other survivors.

Published September 28, 2016

Emmy-winner and Oscar-nominee Viola Davis is mostly known for her brave and unflinching performances on the small and large screens, but recently she showed that she embodies these characteristics in real life.

At the Rape Foundation’s luncheon in Beverly Hills on Sunday, the HTGAWM star courageously shared her own story of experiencing sexual assault as a young girl, People reported


“Myself, my mother, my sisters, my friend Rebecca, my friend from childhood, we all have one thing in common: We are all survivors of sexual assault in some way, shape or form," the 51-year-old advocate said as she accepted her award from the organization. 

“Listen, when I was young, there were so many men in the neighborhood who gave you money if they could touch you,” she continued.

“Going over to a friend's house for a birthday party at the age of seven, there was always someone there who touched you.”

She also went in detail about her sister’s experiences.

“My sister Danielle was 8 years old when she was on roller skates and went down to the corner store at 1 o'clock in the afternoon and was sexually assaulted in the aisles,” said Davis.

“She told my mom right away – my mom ran down to the store. The store owner's response was: “He does that to all the little girls.’”

She also recalled that when her mother “flagged down” the police, they only made the perpetrator pay a fine of a measly $10 a month. And while Davis stresses that for the perps, when the rape is done, their done, but the survivors have to live with it for their entire lives. 

“My sister is now a heroin addict, she's a prostitute," she said.

"The friend of mine who's a survivor, I call her a survivor because her 7-year-old daughter was taken from the backyard of her grandma's house while playing in the middle of the day. They couldn't find her for an entire day, and they finally found her sexually assaulted, strangled dead. So her mom, she's surviving. It's just that when she's surviving, when she's alive just having a meal, she has flashbacks – post-traumatic stress disorder."

Davis, whose husband Julius Tennon attended the event with her, asked that everyone promise to live their "lives outloud" and take the two following actions. 

"Number one, if you have not visited the Rape Treatment Center or the Stuart House, you must. That's all I'll say, then I'll let your heart do the rest," she said. "Number two, it's like the famous Shakespeare quote: 'To whom should I complain?' If you have anyone in your life that you know, or if you don't know is a rape survivor then listen because truly whatever you say, if you feel ashamed in any way of your story – shame cannot exist if you tell it to people who have empathy," she said. 


Also surrounded by her supportive HTGAWM cast, Davis later noted that half of the victims helped by the Rape Foundation are children, noting that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before turning 18, People wrote. 

"They don't want to just survive, they want to be warriors. They want to know that at the time that they were held down, and strangled, that wasn't their death," said Davis.

"And you giving to the Rape Treatment Center, the Stuart House, anything to make sure there's models just like that in this world, in this country is you living out loud."

Having high-profile Black women such as Davis speak out rape in our community is incredibly important, especially given how often African-American women and girls are caught in the crosshairs of sexual voilence, yet we don't often talk about it. 

Thank you Viola. 


Written by Kellee Terrell

(Photo from top: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic, Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for The Rape Foundation, Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for The Rape Foundation, Todd Williamson/Getty Images)


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