Deciding to speak out about an experience with sexual assault is a difficult thing to do
Some can feel ashamed, judged, or too scared to come forward and share their stories. With Donald Trump receiving no consequences for reportedly touching several women inappropriately, it's easy to understand why some survivors feel they won't be taken seriously. After all, it's hard to have faith that your story will be heard when you're witnessing people defend the next possible President of the United States for harassing women.
Even though it's a hard circumstance to deal with, sometimes just talking about the experience can provide healing not only for yourself, but for other individuals trying to cope with the same trauma. These celebrities wanted to tell their stories, in the hopes that more will feel safe enough to come forward.
When she was 19 years old, the "Being Mary Jane" actress was raped at gunpoint while she was working at a Payless shoe store. Recently, sexual assault survivors staged a boycott of Union's film "Birth of a Nation" after rape allegations came out against director Nate Parker. Regardless of the backlash, Union has stated that she understands why people chose not to see the movie.
"As a rape survivor and as an advocate, I cannot shy away from this responsibility because the conversation got difficult. I don't want to put myself above anyone's pain or triggers," she told Essence. "Every victim or survivor, I believe you. I support you."
The "Perfect Illusion" singer was assaulted at 19 by a man “20 years older.” She ended up never confronting him about the abuse.
“I don’t want to be defined by it. I’ll be damned if somebody’s gonna say that every creatively intelligent thing that I ever did is all boiled down to one dickhead that did that to me,” she said to Howard Stern on his radio show in 2014. “I’m gonna take responsibility for all my pain looking beautiful and all the things I’ve made out of my strife. I did that.”
The singer later wrote and recorded her song "Til It Happens to You" alongside Diane Warren for the documentary "The Hunting Ground," a film about rape on college campuses. She performed it at the 2016 Academy Awards, and brought real-life sexual assault survivors onstage with her in a triumphant display of solidarity.
After hearing the crude comments Donald Trump had to say about a woman's body, the 33-year-old wanted to come forward and talk about her personal experience being sexually assaulted in public by her ex-boyfriend.
"To this day I remember that moment. I remember the shame," she wrote on her Instagram. "I am afraid my mom will read this post. I'm even more afraid that my father could ever know this story. That it would break his heart. I couldn't take that. But you understand, don't you? I needed to tell a story."
The actress-slash-rapper spoke to Essence magazine about how being sexually assaulted at a young age had negative ramifications on her life. It forced her to keep "people at an arm's distance," and because of that she "never really let a person get too close."
"I was a kid, and I had no power or control over the situation," she continued. "I really wish I'd had the strength and the knowledge to say something sooner. Because I always wondered: Did he do that to someone else? But I accept that the time for action has come and gone."
Oprah has always been vocal about her past experiences with sexual abuse. At age nine she was raped by a cousin, and later on experienced other sexual assaults from several family members. She became pregnant at 14 and felt a lot of "pain and shame" for what she had gone through.
"Anybody who has been verbally abused or physically abused will spend a great deal of their life rebuilding their esteem," she told David Letterman. "Everybody has a story, and your story is equally as valuable and important as my story.
Madonna had already spoken about her rape in Harper's Bazaar back in 2013, and opened up more about the experience on Howard Stern in 2015. She was 19 and needed money for the payphone, and decided to ask a stranger for money. Once he gave it to her, he persuaded Madonna to make the phone call from his house. When she went in with him, he raped her.
When Stern asked if she ever reported the sexual assault, Madonna replied, "You've already been violated. It's just not worth it. It's too much humiliation."
In an interview with Essence magazine, Mo'nique discussed how she had been sexually violated by her older brother when she was seven.
"Even when I confronted him and told my parents, he said I was lying, and nothing was really done," she said. "My father was very upset, but it never got mentioned again. I'll never forget my mother saying, 'If it's true, it will surface again,' and I remember thinking, 'Why would I lie?'"
After winning Best Supporting Actress at the 2010 Golden Globes for her role in "Precious," Mo'nique dedicated her award to sexual assault survivors.
"I celebrate this award with all the Preciouses, with all the Marys — I celebrate this award with every person that's ever been touched. It's now time to tell. And it's OK," she said.
The "Desperate Housewives" actress revealed her sexual abuse was at the hands of her uncle when she was five. He later went on to be arrested for the rape of a 14-year-old neighbor. The girl later committed suicide because of the traumatic event.
"I kept thinking, If she'd known me, especially me being famous; if I could have said to her, 'Look, it happened to me!'" Hatcher said to Vanity Fair. "If I could just have said to her, 'You're going to be OK.' I kept thinking, 'What do I do with this information I have that no one else has?'"
"90210" star McCord shared with Cosmopolitan her experience being sexually assaulted in her home by a male friend. McCord explained that she woke up to find him next to her in her bed.
"I wondered if I had done something to give him the wrong idea. I felt afraid of making him angry," she said.
McCord hopes that other victims of sexual assault will not be afraid to speak up about what happened to them, saying "I have my message for women and girls: You have a voice. Don't put yourself in a box. Don't let the polite lies of society silence you."
The "How to Get Away with Murder" actress is a survivor of sexual abuse, along with her sister, mother, and several of her close friends. She's too familiar with seeing men from her neighborhood violating little girls, and can even recall the day her sister was sexually assaulted in a store.
"Memories demand attention, because memories have teeth," she said. "That sexual assault perpetrator can move on. The only person who rapes is the rapist. The person who is left behind has to pay over, and over, and over again."
Davis was recently honored by the Rape Foundation's Annual Brunch for her work with the organization. She encouraged everyone to visit and support the Rape Treatment Center, listen to survivors' stories, and to live a life bigger than yourself, or as she puts it, "live out loud."