Viola Davis Urges Advocates To Redefine What It Means To Survive Sexual Assault

Photo: Matt Baron/REX.
Viola Davis wants people to rethink what it means to be a survivor of sexual assault. In a speech benefitting the Rape Foundation, the How to Get Away With Murder star spoke candidly about her own family's history with sex abuse, and asked listeners to reconsider how they think about survivors of such assaults.

"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," Davis said, as People reports.

Davis shared that when her sister Danielle was 8 years old, Danielle was assaulted in an aisle of a corner store.

"She told my mom right away — my mom ran down to the store. The store owner's response was: '[The man] does that to all the little girls,'" the actress explained. "My mom flagged down the police, and the perpetrator did pay. He paid. He was fined $10 a month. It's over for him, but I'd like to redefine survivor."

Instead of thinking about survivors as making it through specific instances of abuse, the Suicide Squad star urged advocates to think of the continuing trauma survivors often face.

"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," Davis said at the Rape Foundation's annual brunch, according to People. "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 has been working with the Rape Foundation since 2010, when she played its founder in a movie, according to the Associated Press.
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