As hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets all across the country for the Women’s March on Saturday to protest Donald Trump‘s one year anniversary as president, actress Viola Davis took to the stage in an effort to give a voice to the faceless victims of sexual assault.
“Every single day, your job as an American citizen is not just to fight for your rights, but it is to fight for the right of every individual that is taking a breath, whose heart is pumping and breathing on this earth,” she told the assembled crowd at the Los Angeles march.
Her speech comes at a time when women are coming forward and speaking up about high-profile men who have been accused of sexual harassment and assault.
“I am speaking today not just for the Me Toos because I was a ‘Me Too,’ but when I raise my hand, I am aware of all the women who are still in silence,” she said in a powerful and moving speech.
“The women who are faceless. The women who don’t have the money and don’t have the constitution and who don’t have the confidence and who don’t have the images in our media that gives them a sense of self-worth enough to break their silence that is rooted in the shame of assault and rooted in the stigma of assault.”
“In the words of my fellow American Malcolm X, I’m gonna make it plain,” Viola Davis stated firmly.
The Oscar-winning actress called America the “greatest nation on this planet,” but said it put into place some terrible laws.
“In 1877, America put laws in place called the Jim Crow laws,” and they “restricted the rights of quadroons, octoroons, blacks, Hispanics, Malays … they restricted medical, relationships, education,” and in essence, “they restricted life.”
They “told us we were less than,” Viola Davis went on.
“I’m not ready to wait a hundred, or two hundred years, for things to change,” she quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. as saying. She added that “time needs to be helped by every single moment, doing right.”
Viola Davis said that the change will not come easy and there will be a cost, “But I’m here today saying that no one and nothing can be great unless it costs you something.”
She also shared some sobering statistics:
“One out of every five women will be sexually assaulted or raped before she reaches the age of 18. That women of color, if they’re raped or sexually assaulted before the age of 18, are 66-percent more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted again. Seventy percent of girls who are sexually trafficked are girls of color. They are coming out of the foster care system, they are coming out of poverty. It is a billion dollar industry. When they go into the sex trafficking business — and they call it a business, trust me — more than likely, they are gang raped.”
She named great African American women organizers and activists, like Fannie Lou Hamer, Recy Taylor, Rosa Parks, and Tarana Burke – saying their hard work all came with major sacrifice.
“Nothing and no one can be great without a cost,” she said.
She finished by saying her hope for the future is that we “never go back,” and reminding the crowd that marching isn’t enough — that we all must “keep it rolling” when we go home.