Four Female Celebrities Speak Out on Sexual Harassment

Celebrities Speak Out

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When power and privilege are used to speak out against rape and harassment, it can help the rest of us come forward and take action. Here are four powerful (and famous) women who spoke out about their own abuse and harassment – all in the hopes of encouraging the rest of us to take action.

Ashley Judd

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In 2015, actress Ashley Judd revealed her own struggle with sexual harassment. Decades after it occurred, she wanted to give voice to what happened and help other people work through their own victimization. When a high-ranking studio executive sexually harassed Judd, she recalls that what she did – and what she should have done – were two different things. She told Variety:

“I beat myself up for a while." "This is another part of the process. We internalize the shame. It really belongs to the person who is the aggressor. And so later, when I was able to see what happened, I thought: Oh god, that’s wrong. That’s sexual harassment. That’s illegal. I was really hard on myself because I didn’t get out of it by saying, ‘OK motherf—er, I’m calling the police.’”

Calling the police can be hard for most women, especially when they believe the perpetrator can ruin their lives or careers. Judd shows us that sexual harassment can happen to anyone. Even the powerful and privileged struggle with what to do when they are verbally, physically and emotionally violated by sexual assault.

Anita Hill

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In 1991, Anita Hill shed light on workplace harassment when she came forward with accusations that her boss, Clarence Thomas, who was then a Supreme Court Justice nominee, had verbally harassed her. This happened after she declined to date him.

Twenty-three years later, in an interview with MSNBC, Hill highlighted the need to look at the consequences the victims of sexual harassment face when speaking out. She believes that by turning our attention to what happens as a result of going public — for example, losing a job or feeling ostracized — we can change the system so that it’s a safer place for victims to come out.

Teri Hatcher

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In 2014, Desperate Housewives actress Teri Hatcher spoke about the childhood sexual abuse she endured at the hands of her uncle. She came forward during a United Nations event commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Hatcher told Yahoo News:

“I was convinced it was my fault and I blamed myself for what had happened, so I didn’t tell anyone and I was silent. I did, however, unsurprisingly, start to act out and my mother decided to keep me away from my uncle. I didn’t see him anymore, but no one in my family ever asked exactly what happened. We remained silent.”

After Hatcher learned that she wasn’t the only girl that her uncle had abused, she approached a district attorney. They succeeded in putting her uncle in prison for 14 years.

Barbara Bowman

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Even though it took a male comedian to get people to wake up to the fact that Bill Cosby was sexually assaulting women, Barbara Bowman never backed down from rape allegations she levied against the beloved TV dad. Despite not being believed for 30 years, Bowman kept talking. Even when she had trouble admitting it to herself, she opened up to others. Bowman believes that there should be no statute of limitations when it comes to reporting harassment, and her hope is to create legislation to put an end to time limits. She told the Washington Post, “Famous and wealthy perpetrators use their power to shame and silence their victims. It often takes years for young women to overcome those feeling and gain the confidence to come forward (by which point physical evidence is long gone). Our legal system shouldn’t silence them a second time."

Bowman is now a volunteer ambassador for PAVE (Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment), a national advocacy group for victims of sexual violence.

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