Two weeks ago, news about the sexual assault of 16-year-old Jada from Houston went viral. #JusticeforJada trended across the country and overseas as the brave young girl didn't hide behind her story but chose to speak publicly about it.
As a sign of support, actress Jada Pinkett Smith posted the following message on her Facebook page on July 11: "This could be you, me or any woman or girl that we know. What do we plan to do about this ugly epidemic? #justiceforjada."
Now, in an interview with Us magazine, Pinkett Smith tells why the story hit so close to home, and talks about her efforts to raise awareness about sexual assault.
"If you saw what I put on Facebook, you also saw that this could happen to any woman that we know, and the unfortunate part is that my niece was given a date-rape drug that weekend," she tells Us. "Thank God—she's 20—so thank God that nothing happened because she was with some responsible guys that took care of her, and with three of her friends … "
Pinkett Smith also explained how she approached her daughter, 13-year-old Willow Smith, about her cousin's encounter.
"I'm not a conventional parent, which I take a lot of pride in," she tells Us. "The first thing I had my niece do was sit down with my daughter and a couple of her friends and tell her about that experience. I don't just sit with Willow and go, 'Hey, this is what Mommy thinks.' …
"What I do with Willow is I give her the opportunity to be empowered by having herself first," she continues. "Because when you allow a person to be an individual and you allow a person to have power within and have confidence on who they are, you'll never have to look into the eyes of a man and question whether it's a yes or a no. She's gonna be very clear: No. She's gonna be very clear: Yes. And she's gonna be in a position to be able to determine how to protect herself. Know when you're in danger. … "
The actress also pointed out that there's "an epidemic going on out here in regards to the treatment of women."
Pinkett Smith and her husband, Will Smith, most recently came under fire for photos posted on Instagram that showed Willow posing on a bed with her adult friend Moises Arias. That photo led to the Smiths being investigated by social services in Los Angeles.
Yesha Callahan is editor of The Grapevine and a staff writer at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.