Viola Davis wants survivors of sexual assault to speak out and be heard.
On Tuesday night, Davis gave an emotional speech at UCLA's Stuart House, a program that helps sexually abused children and their families. The Emmy-winner talked about how her sister was sexually assaulted at the age of eight.
"I have a sister, who, when she was 8 years old, put on some roller skates with her friend, went down to the corner store at one o'clock in the afternoon, went into the store and was sexually assaulted in the store," she began.
Although Davis' mother reported the man to the police, Davis said the effect the assault had on her sister has lasted a lifetime. "A precocious, very intelligent, very creative child grew up to be frail, angry, a drug addict by the time she was 20," Davis told the crowd.
She said her sister, who is now 39 years old, was at some point a "prostitute" and an intravenous drug user, whose six children have all been "taken by social services."
"You know, memories demand attention because memories have teeth," Davis said, referring to the importance of hearing victims' stories of abuse. "If I had a fantasy, and I mean a fantasy, I would give [my sister] permission to speak. And I would want her in an environment where people heard her."
Davis said that she wishes her sister had had the Stuart House to use as a place of healing because "her whole life could have been different."
"I guess if I were to speak about anything today, I'm going to speak about my sisters of the world. The people who fell through the cracks, who didn't have a Stuart House."
Davis concluded her speech with a powerful message to her sister: "I wish that I could tell my sister that she's not dirty. And that she should not feel any shame of something that she literally was not responsible for. I wish I could save her life."
Correction: An earlier version of this post wrongly stated that Davis is an Oscar-winner, she's been nominated twice but has not won an Oscar. The article has been updated to reflect this change.
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