Viola Davis honored by rape foundation


Viola Davis was honored by the Rape Foundation at the organization's annual brunch on Sept. 25, held at Greenacres estate in Beverly Hills. The How to Get Away With Murder star shared the spotlight with fellow honoree, philanthropist Cheryl Saban.

Davis first got involved with the foundation when she played Gail Abarbanel, the president of the organization, in the 2010 movie Trust, directed by fellow attendee and the event's emcee, David Schwimmer. To prepare for the role, Davis visited the Rape Foundation, which provides free treatment, counseling services and legal aid to survivors of rape and sexual assault, and was compelled to join the cause.

"I had to tour the rape treatment center and the Stuart House, and my life was forever changed," said Davis. "After the assault is over, for the abuser it's over. For the abused it's not. They relive it over and over again ...; and there needs to be some kind of institution that helps us to open our mouths, but a lot of them stay silent for years because there's no one in their lives that they can trust to talk to."

See photos of Viola Davis through the years:

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WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Actress Viola Davis attends the #TGIT premiere event hosted by Twitter at Palihouse Holloway on September 20, 2014 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: (L-R) Actresses Kerry Washington, Viola Davis and Ellen Pompeo attend the #TGIT premiere event hosted by Twitter at Palihouse Holloway on September 20, 2014 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 25: Actress Viola Davis (R) and husband Julius Tennon arrive at the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on August 25, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Barry King/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 15: Actress Viola Davis arrives at the 2014 Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour - Disney/ABC Television Group at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 15, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 15: (L-R) ABC's 'How to Get Away with Murder' actors Matt McGorry, Karla Souza, Katie Findlay, Alfie Enoch, Viola Davis, Liza Weil, Aja Naomi King, Charlie Weber, Jack Falahee and Billy Brown pose for a portrait during ABC's 2014 TCA summer press tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 15, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/ABC/ABC via Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 15: (Top L-R) Actors Jack Falahee, Aja Naomi King, Matt McGorry, Karla Souza, Alfred Enoch, Katie Findley, Charlie Weber, (Front L-R) Director/Executive Producer Bill D’Elia, Executive producers Betsy Beers, Shonda Rhimes, Creator/Executive producer Pete Nowalk, actors Viola Davis, Billy Brown and Liza Weil speak onstage at the 'How To Get Away With Murder'' panel during the Disney/ABC Television Group portion of the 2014 Summer Television Critics Association at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 15, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 15: Viola Davis arrives at the 2014 Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour - Disney/ABC Television Group at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 15, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - Viola Davis is a guest on 'Good Morning America,' 6/12/14, airing on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 29: Actress Viola Davis speaks during Variety Studio Actors on Actors presented by Autograph Collection Hotels on March 29, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Variety)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 21: Actress Viola Davis attends the 26th annual GLAAD Media Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 21, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
WESTWOOD, CA - MARCH 22: Viola Davis Viola Davisarrives at the 'HOME' Los Angeles Premiere at Regency Village Theatre on March 22, 2015 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 21: Viola Davis attends the 26th Annual GLAAD Media Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 21, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.(Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Viola Davis arrives at the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Dan MacMedan/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Viola Davis arrives at the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Dan MacMedan/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25: Actress Viola Davis poses in the press room at the 21st annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25: Actors Viola Davis (L) and Julius Tennon attend TNT's 21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. 25184_021 (Photo by Mark Davis/WireImage)
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When she took the stage to accept her award in front of most of the How to Get Away With Murder cast, Davis shared her personal link to sexual assault, telling the audience about how her sister's experience occurred when she was just a child and explaining the lasting effect it had on her.

"I guarantee you, 1,000 people are going to be in that tent, and the one common bond we all have is we've either been sexually assaulted or we know someone who's been sexually assaulted," said Davis.

Several survivors took the stage to share their stories, and other notable personalities at the event opened up about their experiences. Saban told the audience about how she'd been sexually assaulted at the age of 18, and 90210 actress AnnaLynne McCord opened up about being a rape survivor.

"It's because of organizations like the Rape Foundation that I have a voice, survivors like me have a voice, and I'm thankful that Viola Davis and other people are using their very loud voices for survivors like me to not feel isolated, to not be left in the dark anymore," said McCord. "It's a conversation that we need to talk about."

The event was somber, but Schwimmer, who has worked with the Rape Foundation for 15 years, deftly balanced the serious moments with humor, quipping that, when the first presidential debates kick off Monday night, he wanted the crowd to know he was Team Aniston.

"I try to provide a little levity, because obviously it's an emotional cause and an emotional day," he said. "That's why, actually, we have this event in the sun and in the daylight because there's no shame in discussing this and surviving this."

Others in attendance included Nina Dobrev, Alfred Enoch and Karla Souza.


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