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Angela Bassett Recalls Childhood Sexual Violation: ‘It Was Devastating’

Variety — Ashley Hume

Prior to hosting the Rape Foundation’s annual brunch, Angela Bassett opened up about her own painful experience with sexual violation.

The actress revealed that when she was a young girl, her mother’s boyfriend entered her room one night while she was sleeping and fondled her breasts. “Fortunately, it wasn’t a complete assault, it was fondling, but it was devastating enough for a child who’s 12 or 13,” Bassett told reporters at the event on Sunday afternoon.

Bassett said she was grateful that her mother quickly believed her and took swift action. ”Thankfully, to have a mother who could tell as soon as light broke that this happened and for her to expel him,” Bassett said. “That she heard me, believed me, and did something about it, I think was so empowering for me as a young teen, as a young woman.”

As the mother of a teenage boy and twin girls who she said would often tussle as toddlers, Bassett explained that she began teaching her children the importance of respecting boundaries at age 2. “I started that early because of experiences with friends and I know that they will be in situations one day,” Bassett continued. “When a girl says no, both to him and to her, she means no. Back up. She has to say come here, kiss me.”

A longtime supporter of the Rape Foundation and co-host of the brunch along with Bassett and David Schwimmer, Eric McCormack offered his advice for parents grappling with speaking to their children about sexual assault. “We have a 17-year-old and so the whole idea of consent over the last few years has been a conversation,” McCormack said. “I think it really does come down to — I was talking about this with Gail (Abarbanel, founder and director of the Rape Treatment Center and Stuart House UCLA) the other day — about educating young men. I think it’s happening in the schools, some of them. Certainly, in our kid’s school. But in terms of advice, I think the biggest thing I’d have to work on with everybody is self-esteem and being strong enough to say no, to call for help. Nobody has the right to abuse you.”

Held on the lawn of a private Beverly Hills estate, the brunch highlighted stories of sexual assault survivors and raised funds for the Rape Treatment Center and Stuart House at UCLA-Santa Monica Medical Center. Ahead of the event, Elizabeth Olsen, a frequent volunteer at Stuart House UCLA, described her experience working with teenage and child victims.

“It’s incredible,” Olsen told reporters. “I go the same time weekly so I end up seeing the same kids over and over again and you just get to become hopefully a happy part of their week while they’re seeking therapy and treatment and we just get to hopefully force them to have fun, even if they’re teenagers and we hope that they enjoy — you want them to enjoy the experience. And especially for the really young ones, you want them, while they’re dealing with something that no child should go through and it’s beyond traumatic, that I could not comprehend, you just want them to feel like a kid. So that’s really what you do there as a volunteer and I just feel very lucky that I’ve been doing this for a couple years now.”

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