Viola Davis takes her philanthropy and advocacy work very seriously, probably because she grew up dirt-poor and often talks about how important it is to empower people from meager and abusive backgrounds.
At a benefit event Tuesday for Stuart House, a program that helps child victims of sexual abuse, she opened up about the change she saw her sister undergo after she was sexually assaulted at the age of 8. You can watch the speech at Pop Sugar.
"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 1 o'clock in the afternoon, went into the store and was sexually assaulted in the store," Davis said.
"She came home and she told my mom. My mom ran down to the store, started screaming at the store owners, and they said, 'Leave that man alone. He does that to all the little girls.' And then my mom proceeded to flag down a police officer. They found the man. They put him in the car. I saw my little sister crying. My mom was crying, too. And that was it," Davis continued.
From there, things took a turn for the worse in her sister's life as "a precocious, very intelligent, very creative child grew up to be frail, angry, a drug addict by the time she was 20," Davis recalled.
Her sister became a prostitute and an IV drug user who had "six children, all of which have been taken by social services."
Davis spoke about the importance of programs like the Stuart House, which works with child victims to get them the help they need. "I wish she had had the Stuart House to throw her a rope, because her whole life could have been different," she said.
"There are a lot of beautiful stories that are going to come out of the Stuart House … there's going to be so many testimonies of winning and heroic young people literally opening their mouths and speaking about their abuse—daring to call out their abusers," she added.
Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is a staff writer at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web series that features video interviews with scarily insightful people. Follow Lectures to Beats on Facebook and Twitter.