Viola Davis wants to 'redefine' the meaning of the word survivor

Viola Davis has been a victim of sexual abuse as a youngster and her own experiences led her to become an advocate for the Rape Foundation. Photo / AP
Viola Davis has been a victim of sexual abuse as a youngster and her own experiences led her to become an advocate for the Rape Foundation. Photo / AP

Viola Davis bravely opened up about her experiences with sexual assault at the Rape Foundation's Annual Brunch.

The 51-year-old actress told the assembled guests that she had been a victim of sexual abuse as a youngster and her own experiences led her to become an advocate for the group.

Detailing her experiences in a powerful speech she gave whilst being honoured at the gathering in Beverley Hills on Sunday , she said: "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.

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"When I was young, there were so many men in the neighbourhood who gave you money if they could touch you. Going over to a friend's house for a birthday party at the age of seven, there was always someone there who touched you."

The How to Get Away With Murder star explained how her sister Danielle was only eight years old when she was sexually assaulted in the aisles of a corner shop, with the shop owner simply saying the perpetrator "does that to all the little girls".

Viola said she wants to "redefine" the meaning of the word survivor, as her sibling Danielle turned to drugs to help her get through her ordeal. She also detailed how a friend of hers lost her daughter to a murderous attacker.

She said: "My sister is now a heroin addict, she's a prostitute. The friend of mine who's a survivor, I call her a survivor because her seven-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."

And for the Suicide Squad actress, the biggest concern is the number of young people still falling victim to paedophiles and sexual predators.


Viola revealed that half of the victims helped by the Rape Foundation are children, and urged the group to keep donating to places like the Rape Treatment Centre and Stuart House, who aim to help child victims.

She said: "They (children) 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. And you giving to the Rape Treatment Centre, the Stuart House, anything to make sure there's models just like that in this world, in this country is you living out loud."

- Bang! ShowBiz

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