Viola Davis Shares Heartbreaking Sexual Abuse Story, ‘Memories Have Teeth’

Actress Viola Davis is known for being candid about an array of issues, especially racism and discrimination in the entertainment industry. Davis took to the podium at the Stuart House event the other day to discuss another subject that’s close to her heart — sexually abused children.

This is an issue close to her heart because she’s experienced how abuse in young children have a ripple effect in one’s life and in their family. The How To Get Away With Murder actress opened up about her sister’s sexual abuse story, and the heartbreaking path that was carved out of that abuse after it happened.

Davis told a story about her sister being sexually abused when she was a child.

“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 one o’clock in the afternoon, went into the store and was sexually assaulted in the store.”

Davis’ sister told her mother what had happened, and she and her mother went down to the store, and yelled at the owners for letting it happen. The owners didn’t seem apologetic, but instead defended the man because he seemed to be mentally ill.

Viola said the owners told her mother, “Leave that man alone. He does that to all the little girls.”

The two left the store crying, and Davis says after that her sister, who she described as, “a precocious, very intelligent, very creative child grew up to be frail, angry, a drug addict by the time she was 20.”

Davis also said that her sister went on to become an intravenous drug user and a sex worker. She revealed that her sister also had six children, and she lost all of them to social services. Instead of hiding this story away from the public, Viola Davis took her platform to make sure that this story is heard, so those like her sister can get help, and feel like they can talk to someone about something that’s so personal and stigmatized.

“You know, memories demand attention, because memories have teeth. You pray that she finds peace and love and happiness, she gets off drugs. And then of course you open your eyes, and you’re like, she’s still on the streets.”

Davis ended her speech with a heartbreaking sentiment about her sister, who still struggles with her own demons because of what happened when she was 8-years-old.

“I wish I could tell my sister that she’s not dirty, and that she should not feel any shame for something that she literally was not responsible for. I wish I could save her life.”

The Stuart House is an organization that serves sexually abused children and their families. It also serves as a rehab center with specially trained staff.

The last we heard from Viola Davis, she was promoting her hit ABC show, How To Get Away With Murder. During an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Davis says that she’s always felt like a loser. Of winning an Emmy, Davis said that she’s over the award but sometimes she still gets a little high from the moment, because she still remembers what it was like to lose out on the Rhode Island beauty pageant back when she was 6-years-old.

[Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Stuart House]