Viola Davis Honored by Rape Foundation

Viola Davis attends The Rape Foundation's Annual Brunch - Getty - H 2016
Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for The Rape Foundation

The 'How to Get Away With Murder' star shared the spotlight with fellow honoree and philanthropist Cheryl Saban.

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.”

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.